Officials were cautiously optimistic at today’s Gap Fire briefing, noting that while the fire had been halted on some fronts, the blaze was still far from under control.
At the meeting, Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. Captain Eli Iskow said the fire was largely contained in the southeast — the area closest to Goleta and Santa Barbara. Of the approximately 1,700 homes under mandatory evacuation orders over the weekend, only about 300 were at risk today, he said.
However, Iskow was quick say that conditions could turn around at any moment, calling today’s efforts a “major, major, major victory for the South Coast,” and pointing out litany of foreseeable setbacks the next.
“We’re in Central California; we’re in the heat of fire season — we could have another fire in a moment,” he said. “We cannot drop our guard; we cannot be complacent.”
Iskow said the fire was still expanding westward and to the north. Refugio Canyon, miles to the west, is the firefighters’ best opportunity to stop the burn, he said.
“Refugio Canyon is our latest, greatest and next best chance,” Iskow said.
This morning, firefighters said the blaze was 35 percent contained — up five percent from the night before — but Iskow stressed that containment percentages are not necessarily good indicators, since they merely represent the amount of the fire’s perimeter under control.
“We don’t like people to get caught up in those numbers,” he said.
The fire, which started last Tuesday, has burned over 9,500 acres and torched four minor structures. Although its cause is still under investigation, authorities believe a human started the fire.
Yesterday, the fire caused caused two power outages, turning lights off from Isla Vista and Goleta to northern Santa Barbara. Jane Brown, a spokesman for Southern California Edison, said that outages are still a serious risk.
“Power outages are likely — it’s imperative that we all continue to prepare for outages,” she said.
Iskow said that morale was high among firefighters, and Sheriff Bill Brown, who attended the briefing but did not speak, said he had not heard a single complaint from law enforcement officers who were working around the clock to help with evacuations.
“Everyone has pitched in,” Brown said. “This is what our mission is.”