Local Emergency Declared in Sherpa Fire

The South Coast Air Quality Management District declared a local emergency and issued a smoke advisory for Los Angeles and Orange counties in response to the Sherpa Fire in Santa Barbara County, which has burned more than 7000 acres.

"While much of the smoke from the distant fire is dispersed and remains aloft, smoke may affect communities across the South Coast Air Basin at times," according to the advisory, issued Friday. "The smoke is not currently causing significant air quality concerns for the basin, but increased haze can be seen."

AQMD officials urged people in areas affected by smoke to avoid vigorous activity, warning that winds could push smoke from the blaze across the area. People with respiratory or heart ailments, older adults and children should remain indoors, and residents should keep doors and windows closed, AQMD officials said.

Residents were also urged to run air conditioners with the fresh-air intake closed, and avoid using swamp coolers or whole-house fans.

Area campers displaced by the blaze were being directed to the Cachuma Lake Recreation Area, where there were still some available camp sites as of this afternoon, Santa Barbara County Parks spokesman Jeff Lindgren said. Campgrounds at El Capitan and Refugio State Beach have been closed due to the fire. Jalama Campground had no vacancies.

Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr said the declaration of a local emergency was necessary due to the potential for future evacuations and further damage to agricultural and natural resources in the area. She emphasized that the safety of the public and the firefighters working to stop the blaze is the county's top concern.

Farr noted that there has been damage to agriculture already, impacting avocado, lemon and olive groves as well as grazing land. Agriculture is the leading industry in the area, representing $1.48 billion in the county, she noted. Damage assessments are still underway.

The Sherpa Fire was first reported off Refugio Road at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday. As of Saturday morning, the fire was consuming 7,063 acres and was 24 percent contained, officials said.

About 270 structures are under a 72-hour threat. One building has already been damaged. No injuries have been reported.

Currently, 1,230 personnel are devoted to the fire under the unified command of U.S. Forest Service, Cal-Fire and Santa Barbara County Fire. Early today, the Orange County Fire Authority dispatched a strike team that includes five brush engines and 19 firefighters.

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