The current wildfire danger hit closer to home Monday afternoon when a grass fire broke out near Los Alamos.
The fire burned over 100 acres of the Gato lease property on Cat Canyon Road, approximately four miles from Highway 101. Oil field workers were using mechanical equipment to remove brush and install a pipeline when a spark started the fire. Dry grass and hot winds fueled the fire.
Capt. Charlie Johnson of the Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. said firefighters were fortunate because the fire was on top of a ridge burning downhill instead of uphill.
“Because it was moving downhill it was a slow burning fire, which allowed us to get our equipment around the fire to contain it,” Johnson said. “Fire burns 16 times faster uphill than downhill.”
A water-dropping helicopter, 11 fire engines, three water tenders and a “hot shot” crew from Vandenberg Air Force Base worked overnight and throughout Tuesday morning to contain the fire. Johnson said the fire was difficult to fight because the oil equipment at the site kept them from using bulldozers as much as they normally would have.
“Because of oil field pipelines we could only have minimal use of ‘dozers. The crew used hand tools and hose lines to contain the fire,” Johnson said. “When we did use ‘dozers we had firefighters walking in front of the ‘dozer to guide it. The weight of a ‘dozer could have crushed the pipelines.”
A sheriff’s department aero squadron reported the fire during a scheduled fire patrol flight.
“This is a good example of the cooperative nature of our patrols,” Johnson said. “We now have the ability to spot fires from the sky.”
The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s and Fire Depts. initiated the early warning flights as part of a proactive fire suppression measure designed to ensure the delivery of real-time information to fire personnel on the ground.
Approximately 100 firefighters from Santa Barbara County are currently assisting other departments throughout southern California. Johnson said despite this commitment, the department’s ability to protect the community has not been compromised.
“All Santa Barbara stations are fully staffed,” Johnson said. “We’re stretched, but still in good shape.”
No injuries or structure damage have been reported as a result of the fire.