Captain Eli Iskow, Chief Deputy Geoff Banks, and Southern California Edison’s Jane Brown presented the progress made by Santa Barbara firefighters earlier today, the seventh day in the fight against the Gap Fire.
As always, high winds, low moisture, and old, dry brush – referred to in the context of the fire fight as “fuel” – were of concern to Iskow and the fire department. According to Iskow, this week’s weather is not significantly more dangerous, although the forecast predicts hotter temperatures. Wind conditions are predicted to be the normal day upslope and night downslope. However, monsoonal conditions are predicted for this coming Friday, and with this weather comes erratic winds. There will be “battling winds,” or winds blowing in opposite directions against each other. Iskow reiterated the fact that one of the major challenges firefighters are facing is the fact that this area hasn’t burned in 55 years; the old fuel and the lack of rain combine for dangerous possibilities.
Although much progress has been made in the southeast region, north and west regions are currently in danger. The fire has reached West Camino Cielo Road, and efforts are in place to make sure the fire does not cross it. According to Iskow, the approximate four-and-a-half miles between Route 154 and the Winchester Gun Club are in great danger currently. Other efforts are in place to stop the fire should it reach nearby canyons to the west.
Iskow would like to warn that the containment numbers and percentages can be very misleading. Although some of the fires have been contained as much as 84 percent, he said, “We cannot drop our guard. We don’t drop ours, and we don’t like anyone else to. It can be anywhere from five to 500 feet of fuel to start a fire.”
Iskow also reported that the firefighters are all “doing fine.” Remarkably, there have been no firefighter deaths or major injuries. He said they have maintained “good attitudes” and will continue in this struggle.
Several aircrafts are also hard at work today. A DC-10, a jet plane, is focused on a stretch of West Camino Cielo road; it and 15 other aircrafts today are dropping 135,000 gallons of retardant and 47,000 gallons of water. Iskow said that there have not been as many aircrafts as needed – there were 18 at the most on one day – but he understands that there are only so many aircrafts to go around. If another region has structures or citizens in immediate danger, the aircrafts will go to that region.
SCE’s Brown urged attendees at the press conference to remind citizens to conserve energy during this time. Power outages are still likely, and citizens need to be prepared. She also reported that 48,000 people were left without power for a time yesterday.
Over 9,500 acres have been burned so far from the Gap Fire, and fewer than 300 homes are currently in immediate danger, according to Iskow and Banks.