Smoke rolled into Santa Barbara County last night, boiling out of Ventura County’s Maria Fire, which flamed into life at around 6 p.m. on South Mountain, across the Santa Clara River from Santa Paula. Santa Barbara has so far been spared the emergency fire declarations to our north and south, though its cities’ and county fire departments have sent about 80 firefighters to the Kincade, Easy, and Getty fires in the mutual aid compact that supports every big fire fight.
About 54 firefighters from Santa Barbara engine and hand crews, as well as their strike-team leaders, are on the Maria Fire, said county fire spokesperson Capt. Daniel Bertucelli. They are supplementing the 500 firefighters in what has been an uphill fight, said Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen at a Friday noon press conference. The shifting winds had opened up new fuel beds, including in the river bottom, and threatened oil fields and agricultural properties. As the winds died down, the fire backed down all sides of the mountain toward Somis, Saticoy, and Santa Paula.
Approaching 9,000 acres mid-day, Maria started at a high point on South Mountain, which houses communications equipment, including the telecommunications for public safety, said Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub. His deputies and the CHP were evacuating about 8,000 people; 2,300 structures were threatened.
Firefighters drive through roads surrounded by flames to battle the #MariaFire in Ventura County. The fire has burned 7,400 acres and threatened structures, prompting evacuations of about 7,500 people. Officials confirmed a drone hampered firefighting efforts. Video: @KTLA pic.twitter.com/vfBMNDUk1F— KGET 17 News (@KGETnews) November 1, 2019
The prognosis on the Maria Fire was not good in the short term, fire officials and a National Weather Service spokesperson said. The 35 mph gusts that had fanned the fire last night would continue tonight in Ventura. A relative humidity down in the single digits encouraged fire spread and was likely to continue next week. Hotter weather was expected on Saturday, and a Red Flag Warning in effect in the area since Tuesday may continue into Saturday afternoon.
Warnings against breathing the smoke went out, including from Santa Barbara County’s Air Pollution Control District. Stay indoors and avoid outdoor activities when it’s smoky, Public Health recommended, or use an N-95 particle-protection mask, such as the ones distributed for the heavy Thomas Fire smoke.