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“If you went out there now, you’d see really tired folks on the line, protecting structures and active firefighting going on,” said Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig during a Wednesday afternoon press meeting on the Alisal Fire. His firefighters were still on the fire and had been since the initial attack on Monday afternoon, said Hartwig, who went on to praise the coordination of his department with Montecito, City of Santa Barbara, Summerland and Carpinteria, and Forest Service fire agencies.
That partnership was being folded into a Type 1 incident command led by the Forest Service, said Woody Enos, an incident commander and deputy chief of operations with County Fire. The difference, said Jimmy Harris, a fire chief with Los Padres National Forest, was the advantage of 58 leadership roles versus three in the Type 3 command in place earlier. Harris noted the winds were shifting, always a dangerous time, but when they let up, aircraft were able to make the round trip from Santa Maria in 40 minutes.
The third incident commander, Matt Ferris with County Fire, noted that high priorities were to get the 101 and the railroad tracks open again. The well-used corridors were still getting runs of fire, he said, with one at 3 a.m. today reaching the tracks and the beach.
Supervisor Joan Hartmann, in whose district the fire has consumed 15,500 acres as of this afternoon, noted they’d all been through this many times before and that everyone knew their jobs. Importantly, she said, that to help firefighters do their job, “If they ask it, do it.”
To that end, drones were reportedly flying in the fire zone, reported Mike Eliason, a County Fire spokesperson. Drones can ground aircraft fighting the fire, and Eliason said they posed a serious risk to effective wildfire suppression operations.
Roger Aceves, a councilmember in Goleta, gave a shoutout to Dos Pueblos High School, which hadn’t hesitated to offer its gym as a refuge for evacuees even though school was in session. His city was about 16 miles from the fire front as of last night and getting smoky, but Aceves was sure residents were prepared and ready from the last fire evacuation.
The county’s ReadySBC.org has information on preparing for fire evacuation, as well as how to sign up for emergency alerts. For anyone suffering from the smoke, Direct Relief has N95 masks available for free at its headquarters at 6100 Wallace Becknell road near the Santa Barbara airport.
Find all our updates on the Alisal Fire here.