White Fire (May 28, 2013)
Paul Wellman

Santa Barbara County fire officials report that the White Fire, located six miles from Santa Barbara on the other side of the mountains and the other side of the Santa Ynez River, is about 80 percent contained. As of 6 a.m., the fire had consumed about 1,858 acres of steep terrain. Hundreds of firefighters battled the wind-swept blaze, but none to date have sustained injuries. Thus far, 629 firefighters, six air tankers, and 12 helicopters have been involved in containment activities. No homes have been burned, though at one point as many as 50 were threatened and one structure — and two cars — were damaged.

The wind advisory that had been predicted to expire this afternoon has been extended through to early Thursday morning, meaning that firefighters can expect winds gusting up to 40 miles an hour. For air tanker pilots, this can prove especially problematic; such winds — as they bounce off the canyon walls — create significant turbulence and render flying unsafe at velocities of 30-35 miles per hour. On Tuesday, all six tankers were grounded two hours in the afternoon during intense winds.

On a related front, County Fire officials determined that the smaller Olive Fire — which consumed 170 acres of grassland in Santa Ynez near the intersection of highways 246 and 154 — started after two power lines contacted each other during yesterday’s high winds, generating sparks. That fire, though never contained, was put out within a matter of hours. Thus far, the exact cause of the White Fire — which started Monday afternoon by the White Rock Day Use Area off Paradise Road — remains uncertain.


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