Santa Barbara County firefighters are currently battling a 50-acre vegetation fire in the San Miguelito Canyon area south of Lompoc. Ten strike teams have been dispatched for structure protection and nearby residents are being evacuated.
County Fire spokesperson Capt. David Sadecki said the fire is burning in medium fuel but is being pushed by winds toward heavy vegetation. There are downed power lines in the area, he continued. Two air support units have been ordered, and County Fire engines are being supported by Lompoc City Fire teams.
A second, much smaller fire is also burning near Santa Maria, but Sadecki said it’s only affected about half an acre and should be put out soon.
Check back for updates.
UPDATE, 3:18 p.m.: The evacuation order has been designated as the area from San Miguelito Road to Olive and G streets. Santa Barbara City Fire resources are now responding.
Sadecki just reported via Twitter that the fire has spread to 150 acres and is threatening to burn as many as 200 structures. He said it is spreading at a rapid rate, and that more resources are being ordered.
At this time there is zero containment; it’s currently 91 degrees in the area. While fire officials haven’t pinpointed the fire’s exact origin, emergency radio chatter indicates it may have started on or near the Celite mine operated by Imerys in the 2500 block of Miguelito Canyon Road.
UPDATE, 3:20 p.m.: The Santa Barbara Independent‘s outdoors editor is now on the scene of the Miguelito Fire outside of Lompoc. “It’s concentrated but there is some pretty good smoke coming up,” he said. “It’s 93 degrees here right now, but very little wind, so that’s a good thing.” He will continue filing reports as the incident proceeds.
UPDATE, 3:40 p.m.: Ray Ford reports that the fire is solely on the eastside of San Miguelito Road, save for one spot fire that is being tended to by an engine. It’s 92 degrees on the road, with what he estimates is a 10 mile per hour wind blowing east-northeast. He is witnessing 10- to 12-foot-high flames hitting patches of chaparral, though much of the area is light in vegetation, a lot of which is green, so burning slow if at all.
“It’s not in any danger of reaching town right now,” said Ford, who has followed wildfires in Santa Barbara County for four decades. “The goal is going to be keeping it south of Highway 1 and east of San Miguelito.”
UPDATE, 3:43 p.m.: A total of eight air tankers have been ordered to fight the fire, which has grown to around 200 acres, and four helicopters are currently on the scene. The fire is being pushed by 10-15 mph south-easterly winds, Sadecki said, and there is low relative humidity in the area.
The primary evacuation zone for area residents is Lompoc High School. The secondary location — for those with medical needs — is Trinity Church of the Nazarene at D Street and North Avenue.
UPDATE, 4 p.m.: Ray Ford is now on the grounds of the Celite diatomaceous earth plant outside of Lompoc, which is close to where the fire appears to have begun. There is no cause known yet, although Ford says it appears to have started further up the hillside, as the vegetation immediately adjacent to the facility has not burned. He reports that it the Miguelito Fire is now burning up and away from the facility, toward Highway 1. Air tankers are dropping fire retardant every five minutes in addition to helicopters dropping water sporadically as well. “Otherwise it’s pretty calm,” said Ford, noting that the temperature had dropped a bit to 90 degrees and that there was not much wind at all, so the smoke is going straight up.
UPDATE, 5:15 p.m.: Ray Ford is now on the Highway 1 side of the fire and said it is 89 degrees with not much wind.
“The fire is generally moving in a northeasterly direction,” said Ford. “It is trending toward homes, not a lot of homes, but some homes. There is a minor threat to them now.”
Ford had just witnessed what he believes was the DC-10 making fire retardant drops, but heard that the air support will only continue for another hour. However, the hillsides near the homes are well coated with retardant, said Ford, who believes the fire crews may be working on the fire all night long.
UPDATE, 7:05 p.m.: The fire has jumped to 500-700 acres and continues to be pushed northeast toward Highway 1 by shifting winds. Sadecki said approximately 100 engines have been ordered to respond to the incident, and that a number of them are already on-scene. As of 5 p.m., the fire was still zero percent contained, but it’s unclear if any progress had been made by 7 p.m. Sadecki said hundreds of reverse 9-1-1 calls have been made to area residents to evacuate their homes.
UPDATE, 8:45 p.m.: From his vantage point, Ray Ford reports that the Miguelito Fire appears to be in the “mop-up stages,” meaning that, despite the low containment at this time, the firefighters feel confident they have in under control. One small triangle of the fire was still burning lightly around sunset, said Ford.
County Fire’s David Sadecki also tweeted at 8:30 p.m. that evacuations in Lompoc have been lifted, except for homes south of Willow on San Miguelito Canyon Road.