As of 4 a.m., county fire had not expanded its evacuation order for the Gap Fire-located on West Camino Cielo Road, about four and a half miles away from where it intersects Highway 154-leaving La Patera and Glen Annie Canyons closed. The goal now, said Incident Commander Fleming Bertelsen of the Los Padres National Forest Fire Crew, is to maintain status quo until efforts can be ramped up at daylight. Captain Eli Iskow, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department’s Public Information officer, reported at 10:40 p.m. that the fire covered about ten acres. The current size has not been determined yet.
“It’s not moving any faster than it was this evening, but it’s still moving downhill,” said John Ahlman, of the U.S. Forest Service, at 3:35 a.m. this morning. Standing on West Camino Cielo next to where fire tankers and equipment trucks had set up shop, the nearby glow of the fire grew visibly brighter between 1 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. Bertelsen maintained that darkness makes fires appear worse than they are, yet from where we were positioned, it was possible to see not only the thick, spark-infused smoke, but also an occasional vortex of flame swirling into the billowing cloud of ash. The air was noticeably warmer up there as well.
Although fire fighters posted on West Camino Cielo seemed confident that they could keep things on an even keel until morning, radio traffic could be heard requesting someone to come up to help move trucks down the road from where they were parked, up the slope from the fire on West Camino Cielo. “Let’s get these vehicles down from here. This thing is going to come up onto West Camino,” a voice squawked over Bertelsen’s handheld.
Airplanes and helicopters were active yesterday evening when the fire started, and there will be more on hand to help contain the fire as soon as day breaks. According to officials at the Los Padres National Forest office in Goleta, there were two planes and a helicopter today, to which two more planes and an unspecified number of helicopters will be added tomorrow. Fire authorities plan on having aircraft in the air by 7 a.m. “You’ll see a flurry of activity out here without a doubt,” said Ahlman. As of a 3:35 a.m. conversation with him, he stated that there were 227 personnel working on the fire right now, with more on the way. Firefighters from Ventura, Los Angeles, and San Luis Obispo Counties were already battling the blaze alongside firefighters from Santa Barbara County and Los Padres National Forest. The men who were standing in the road by their trucks-chugging water and taking a break from using chainsaws to cut containment lines in the dense, tinder dry chaparral-looked sweaty and tired.
The County Fire Department reported that evacuees from La Patera and Glen Annie Canyons are being offered shelter at San Marcos High School, and that people with bigger pets will be accommodated at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. Engines are standing by to protect structures on the north side of Cathedral Oaks Road, in the event that the fire comes down that low. All that remains is to wait, hoping that the mercifully light winds from the past day or two continue. For more information, visit the county Fire Department’s website.