Alamo Fire’s Growth is Halted and at 65 Percent Containment

Firefighters Working to Drop a Noose Around Largest Fire in California

A DC-10 drops Phos-Chek on the eastern flank of Alamo Fire.
Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Dept.

The evacuation status for residents near Alamo Fire was lifted to just a warning Wednesday morning. But firefighters continue to sweat to contain the smoldering mass as much as possible before higher temperatures descend in the late week. First sparked on the San Luis Obispo County border near State Route 166 the afternoon of Thursday, July 6, the originally 175-acre Alamo Fire was pushed by hot, heavy winds across nearly 29,000 tinder-dry acres in Santa Barbara County by Monday, earning it the dubious distinction of the largest fire among California’s 13 uncontrolled fires.

Map of Alamo Fire as of July 12, 2017. Solid black line indicates completed fire line; red stitch line means uncontrolled fire edge.

More than 2,200 firefighters, dozer drivers, hand crews, engine crews, helicopter pilots, water tenders, and pumpkin fillers — the bright-orange, inflatable, portable water pools transported to open fields for copters to suck water from — were working the fire zone in the Twitchell Dam watershed on Wednesday. They were having good nights, said Chad Carroll, a spokesperson for Alamo’s unified fire command, and slightly easier days with decent humidity, temps in the mid-80s, and mild winds. They increased the containment line — a bulldozed or hand-hacked or fire-retardant-painted strip many feet wide that the fire can hopefully not jump across — from 20 percent on Monday to 65 percent on Wednesday. That the fire acreage was not growing, said Carroll, was a good sign that containment was working.

Crews were in a mop-up phase by Tuesday, Carroll explained, dealing with trees smoking at their roots that might topple onto the 166. Of the 133 multi-acre homes spread out in the area under evacuation status, two were reported damaged or destroyed so far. Resources were being freed up for Alamo as fires around the state are tamed, Carroll added, with Tepusquet’s roads lined with a quantity of parked emergency vehicles. The cause of Alamo Fire, which carried a $3.4 million price tag on Sunday, remains undetermined as of press deadline.

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