According to the U.S. Forest Service, no major changes in the Gap Fire were reported by 4 a.m. this morning. As areas of the fire continued to burn steadily, evacuation orders issued at 10 p.m. last night remained in effect. Wind continues to be a factor in the ongoing danger to structures and safety. (For details on which areas have been evacuated, check the latest Indy update.) The fire is still believed to be nearly 6,000 acres in size. It has displaced nearly 5,000 people. The word in the Emergency Operations Center, located on the County government campus on Camino Remedio, is that ten airplanes are expected to be working on the fire tomorrow, including a DC-10.
On the western edge of the fire, at the end of Farren Road in Goleta, where a large orchard and a housing development are located, the scene was tranquil this morning, although road closures were strictly enforced by Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s deputies from as far away as Santa Maria. A strong smell of smoke hung in the air, but the stars in the sky were bright, and the Milky Way visible. As fire burned across Tecolote Canyon from Farren Road and on the top of the ridge just west of the road’s northern terminus, fire crews were at the ready to protect a number of structures in the area.
Measures taken to increase the likelihood that a building doesn’t burn if fire reaches it include cleaning dead leaves off of roofs and removing flammable furniture or other material from nearby, said a crew from Solvang, Santa Barbara County Engine Company 30. “Depending on how much time we have, we’ll put foam on the exposed side of the house,” said Captain Patrick Byde, who was posted with two other fire fighters near a house in the orchards past the end of Farren Road. “[The foam] doesn’t make anything fireproof, but it has some chemicals in it that allow it to penetrate better than water. It gives us some time.”
If the fire becomes too intense, he said, the crew will retreat until the area burns out, and then continue to salvage the structure. Byde and his team began their 12-hour shift this evening on West Camino Cielo, amidst fairly gusty winds. He said that the winds were about 25 miles per hour there, but that he heard reports of 50 mile per hour winds in some of the canyons in the area. “The winds here are kind of funny,” he said. “They just start and stop in different areas.” Byde noted that from what he has observed, the most active areas of the fire have been concentrated in certain areas, with winds yesterday afternoon pushing fire down some of the canyons fairly quickly.
“The current objective now is to provide safety and structural protection for people here,” said Byde, adding that fire personnel intend to keep the fire west of Old San Marcos Road, east of Dos Pueblos Canyon, north of Cathedral Oaks Road, and south of Camino Cielo. As he was speaking, the wind shifted, causing Byde and his crew members to look to the horizon, where flames began to burn more brightly. He said that the fire this morning was backing slowly into Tecolote Canyon, where it is likely to accelerate if it reaches the other side today, beginning to burn uphill.