Record temperatures and hot winds out of the north blew up the Holiday Fire last night, prompting Santa Barbara County emergency-response officials to declare a local emergency around 1 a.m. There have been no reported injuries, according to updates this morning from the county’s Joint Information Center.
Fire crews have achieved 5 percent containment as of this morning, and the brushfire has burned between 60 and 80 acres, according to Mike Eliason, a public information officer with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. Approximately 20 structures — a combination of homes, barns, and outbuildings — have burned, he added. Four helicopters are making water drops, and 350 firefighters are on the scene, Eliason said. A pair of air tankers in Paso Robles are “loaded and ready to go if we need them,” he added. “We’re trying to hit it best we can before temperatures rise and the wind returns.”
Firefighters received a respite around 2 a.m. as the hot northerlies settled down and temperatures slowly dropped. On Friday, daytime highs spiked past 100 degrees throughout the South Coast and held well into the evening. Teams on the ground continued cutting dozer lines throughout the night as calmer skies allowed helicopter pilots with night-vision equipment to make passes over the burn area.
The mandatory evacuation zone expanded rapidly overnight as winds moved the brushfire southward from the Goleta foothills toward Cathedral Oaks Road. More than 2,200 residents fled the area, according to estimates from the Sheriff’s Office. Roughly 3,200 residents live in the mandatory evacuation zone, which stretches northward from Cathedral Oaks Road, between La Patera Lane and Patterson Avenue. “There is active fire, and power lines are down,” said Gina DePinto, an information official with the county. “People should continue to adhere to the evacuation and not try to re-enter the area.”
While today’s temperatures are expected to be slightly lower than yesterday’s, an excessive heat warning remains in effect and sundowner winds are expected to return.
According to a press release: “Proclaiming a local state of emergency is an essential step for local governments dealing with significant incidents. It ensures that all county resources are available for the fire control efforts and supporting activities. Having the proclamation in place also helps facilitate potential state funding and a State Declaration of Emergency, should further evacuations and damage require that declaration.”