Firefighters Gain Ground on Santa Barbara County Wildfire

The Forest Service said the wildfire was 51 percent contained Sunday night

Sherpa Fire Burns in Santa Barbara County
AP

Firefighters battling the Sherpa Fire in Santa Barbara County got a break when winds from the north pushed the flames into previously burned areas, U.S. Forest Service officials said Monday.

The 12-square-mile fire near Goleta was 70-percent contained Tuesday morning. The fire sent smoke over large sections of Los Angeles County last week ahead of a recording-setting heat wave.

An estimated containment date is midnight Thursday, according to the Incident Information System.

Usually, when fighting brushfires, firefighters try to hold their fire lines during the day and extend containment during the night hours when humidity rises and wind and temperatures drop, said Nancy Arkin of the U.S. Forest Service. But the Sherpa firefighting effort has been the opposite, with lower humidity and Sundowner winds propelling the blaze after dark.

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries but returned to the line, according to Santa Barbara County's Joint Information Center. Also, 270 structures are being threatened by the blaze and one small water treatment building at El Capitan state beach has burned.

There are no new evacuations.

Firefighters continued to work on building and reinforcing containment lines along the north and east side of the fire, and along the 101 Freeway, which continues to be threatened by the fire, as are crops, parks and power lines. The 101 Freeway remains open after earlier closures.

The fire -- feeding off a brush and tall grass chaparral and high winds -- was first reported off Refugio Road at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday. 

A mandatory evacuation order remained in effect for Refugio Canyon, Venadito Canyon, Las Flores Canyon, El Capitan Canyon, El Capitan State Beach, El Capitan Ranch, and Canada de la Destiladera; and the area east of the Refugio burn area up to Calle Lippizana, near the equestrian center.

AQMD officials urged people in areas affected by smoke to avoid vigorous activity. 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.

Santa Barbara County has established an email helpline for farmers and ranchers impacted by the Sherpa Fire at sherpaag@co.santa-barbara.ca.us that connects people with the Agricultural Commissioner's Office.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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