Whittier Fire Expected to Move Downslope Tonight
Evacuation Orders Go Out to Avoid Conflicts
As of 11 a.m., Friday, July 14, evacuation orders were issued to residents living downslope of the Whittier Fire from Winchester Canyon to El Capitan Canyon, up from Calle Real. The evacuation orders are described as a precautionary maneuver by firefighters anticipating the advent of mild sundowner winds later this afternoon and tomorrow. “If the worst comes to worst and we find ourselves fighting the fire at Calle Real later tonight, we don’t want to be working around people who are just evacuating,” explained Santa Barbara City Fire Chief Pat McElroy.
McElroy estimated anywhere from 500-1,000 people lived in the evacuation zone. Phone calls have been placed to 372 phone numbers, and authorities are going door-to-door notifying residents it’s time to move.
The number of personnel fighting the fire has ballooned in the past two days from 600 to 1,240, said McElroy. He added that the resources made available to fight the Whittier have expanded exponentially as well. A dozen fire fighting helicopters are now engaged, he estimated, as four to five large air tankers plus a DC 10, known as LVATs, short for “Very Large Air Tankers.” The DC 10 on scene and is expected to be joined by another later this afternoon. Before, he said, the Whittier Fire had to “borrow” such resources from the Alamo Fire outside of Santa Maria.
Between now and this evening, McElroy said every effort would be made to prep downslope structures in anticipation of further encroachment. Last night, for example, he said, a heavy marine layer helped slow down the fire. Tonight, he added, there’s no expectation the marine layer will be so thick, if there at all. ”It’s going to move. We know it’s going to move. The only question is by how much,” he said. He also said, “This isn’t anything we haven’t seen before.”