Going from the normal hum-drum of everyday life to five days of smoke, soot, ash, evacuations, and the hundreds of untold dramas throughout Goleta, to a town seemingly on the verge of destruction, hum-drum seems like a good thing.
Thus far Goleta residents have been tossed every which way, both physically and mentally. Last night, for the first time in way too long, good news began to work its way into the conversation once again.
What happens over the next few days will determine how far that cheer will go.
Today, the fire was extremely active on West Camino Cielo from a point just west of Windermere to the Winchester Gun Club.
Over the past several days the fire has done what the firefighters call “bumping” the road – something that occurs when the fire creeps up to it in a fashion that is fairly easy to put out by a pumper crew and plenty of water.
Today, engine crews, pumpers, and water tenders were busy all afternoon tending to dozens of these bumps as well as what I’d call a few hard hits, with flames reaching 15-to-20 feet in many places.
For the first time, the crews began to light backfires with flares and drip torches while other firefighters stood with their backs to the fire, looking north for any sign of a spot fire igniting the brush.
As I left this evening at 6 p.m. the crews were still busy lighting backfires and burning out the brush. Fortunately for the crews, the winds had shifted to a down canyon mode, pushing the smoke and fire toward Goleta at a 10-to-15 mph. Though back firing operations such as this are tricky business, if successful (which it appears they will be), this final section of West Camino Cielo may be able to be declared contained tomorrow.
The last major uncontained portion of fire line remaining is in the steep upper parts of Winchester and Tecolote canyons. Though there were reports of embers spotting into Eagle and Dos Pueblos canyons, the primary area of concern was the section burning in the upper part of the Winchester drainage.
Late this afternoon I accompanied a crew member from Big Bear to the upper part of Winchester Gun Club to a point that provided views down into Winchester Canyon and west to Broadcast and Santa Ynez peaks. From there the fire appears to be pushing more to the north toward the top of the mountains than west toward Dos Pueblos Canyon.
If so, that would be good news. The crest near the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains is wide and dozers were busy removing vegetation down to mineral soil.
The fire also appeared to be burning slowly with only a few major runs that produced large flames. Unfortunately a number of those runs were in the vicinity of the power lines that provide electricity to the South Coast.
While it is too early to draw any conclusions, fear that the fire might quickly overrun Condor Point or the crest proved unfounded. There is still cause for concern but for today the good news holds.