A panoramic view on Saturday morning from Orella Ranch looking north toward Refugio Pass, Refugio Canyon, Venadito Canyon, Las Flores Canyon (Exxon), and Corral Canyon. | Credit: Eric Hvolboll

Although the Alisal Fire bulged out to the westside of its flanks toward Gaviota on Friday night by about 300 acres, incident commanders are now reporting the fire — which started last Monday — is now 50 percent contained. Yesterday, the containment number was 41 percent. With higher temperatures and drier winds expected throughout today, the plan is to bombard the western edge of the fire to keep it from spreading further west.

As of Saturday morning, the fire was estimated at 17,200 acres, up from 16,901 the day before. Placed at risk by the fire have been 438 single residence; of those four have been destroyed. In addition two outbuildings have suffered damage from the fire.

The evacuation area for the fire normally holds 878 individuals, and although evacuation warnings have eased up somewhat in the last two days — the freeway was reopened Thursday at 6 p.m. and Amtrak train service was allowed to resume just two hours before that — most evacuation orders remain in effect.

By Sunday morning, weather predictions indicate a significant change in weather conditions with notably cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity. These cooler and wetter conditions are expected to intensify Sunday evening. The downside, however, is that this weather shift is expected to bring with it more intense winds out of the northwest, gusting up to 35 miles an hour.

Firemen, from the Cal Fire inmate fire crew, cleanup a burned area of the Alisal Fire. | Credit: Erick Madrid

With the prevailing winds taking a break the last couple of days, firefighting crews — now 1,747 people are engaged in the effort — have been able to considerably slow down the fire’s rate of spread. It helped matters considerably that the fire encroached on the scene of two relatively recent fires to both the east and the west. Although revegetation has occurred in these scarred out areas, the fuel load has been considerably less.

Even with all these positive indicators, the incident report for Saturday morning highlighted the threat the fire still poses. “Significant threat to firefighter safety increases over the next two days due to a shift in weather patterns,” it read, those patterns being defined by “very warm and dry conditions with low relative humidity and erratic gusting winds.”

Find all our updates on the Alisal Fire here.

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