In the early morning hours of Friday, August 15, the storm whose thunder was heard by many Santa Barbara County residents also produced rain and lightning. Lightning from the storm is believed to have caused several fires in the North County-one or more in the back country, and one in the Tepusquet Canyon area north of the intersection at Santa Maria Mesa Road. “No structures or people are threatened:, but we are taking all precautions,” said Santa Barbara County Fire Department Public Information Officer Captain Eli Iskow. However, he said that the potential exists that the fire could threaten lives and structures, so the fire department advises area residents to monitor the fire information line, 681-5546, which will be issuing periodic updates.
The fire’s size had been reduced from 15 to ten acres, Iskow reported as of 1:30 p.m., and firefighters are in the process of building a line around it. If everything goes according to plan, the line-which includes hand line and a perimeter of retardant and water dropped by aircraft-should be completed by tonight. “Unless the weather changes and gives us some wind problems, we should be able to contain it before the night is out,” he said.
Currently, there are about 120 firefighters working on the blaze, aided by heavy machinery, dozers, and aircraft. Although the work is going well, Iskow said that some other small fires on Forest Service land and in San Luis Obispo County-also caused by this morning’s lightning strikes-are competing for fire fighting resources as well. “The firefighters did a great job and hit it hard, plus we got good air support early,” he said. “We were definitely toying with the thought of evacuating that inhabited canyon earlier this morning.”