Although the Sedgwick Reserve fire in the Santa Ynez Valley was officially contained on Monday, air quality warnings and forest closures still remain in effect.
The fire that burned in the Santa Barbara area is one of five blazes in Southern California that is fully contained, according to a press release from 35th District Assemblyman Pedro Nava’s office. President George W. Bush followed in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s footsteps yesterday and declared a federal state of emergency in seven counties up and down the coast, where approximately 16 different blazes continue to threaten forests, businesses and residential areas.
Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. spokesman Eli Iskow said the Sedgwick Fire was contained on Monday at 5 p.m. and that residents are now out of danger. According to Nava’s press release, the Sedgwick Fire burned 710 of the 5,887 acres in the Sedgwick nature reserve area. Five hundred firefighters worked on Sunday and Monday to contain the blaze.
Since the fire dept. does not foresee any additional burning in Santa Barbara County, Iskow said firefighters were dispatched to other parts of Southern California, where fires are still raging. Last night, the fire dept. sent 22 firefighters and five engines to battle the Ranch fire in Ventura County.
“We sent a bunch of firefighters out across the state last night,” he said.
As of last night, the Santa Barbara firefighters were still battling the Ventura County blaze.
Meanwhile, as a result of the Sedgwick fire, Los Padres National Forest is officially closed. According to a press release from the U.S. Forest Service, Los Padres National Forest Supervisor Peggy Hernandez stated yesterday that an emergency closure applies to the entire forest due to extreme fire activity in the state, very low moisture and lack of firefighting resources in the area.
Los Padres spokesman Victor Gutierrez said the Sedgwick Fire did not reach the forest. The fire was 1,000 feet from the boundary when it was declared contained.
However, Gutierrez said because of current weather conditions in the state, the Forest Service is taking precautions to avoid another fire in Santa Barbara County.
“The fire managers are concerned about public safety,” Gutierrez said. “The closure is intended to prevent additional large fire-starts as a result of the current extreme fire activity in the Southern California province.”
It is currently illegal to enter the forest without a permit. Los Padres National Forest will remain closed until fire threats have subsided.
Another effect of the Sedgwick Fire is the degradation of air quality in Santa Barbara County. Yesterday, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Dept. and the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District upgraded the initial precautionary advisory to an official air quality advisory for residents of the area.
According to a press release from the Public Health Dept., air conditions have continued to worsen since the Sedgwick Fire broke out on Sunday morning. High winds are blowing in smoke from other fires in Southern California as well as ash leftover from the Zaca Fire, which was contained on Sept. 2.
Residents are advised to spend as little time outdoors as possible and minimize activity.
Iskow said approximately 16 active fires are burning in Southern California.
“This is controlled chaos,” he said. “There is no way to get exact numbers of evacuees and damage.”
The Nightsky Incident in Ventura County, the Sierra Fire in San Bernardino County, the Roca Fire in Riverside County and the October Incident in Los Angeles County are the only fires other than the Sedgwick Fire that are 100 percent contained.
Firefighters are currently prioritizing eight blazes: the Witch, Rice and Harris fires in San Diego County; the Canyon, Ranch, Magic and Buckweed fires in Los Angeles County and the Santiago Fire in Orange County.
According to the press release, the Santiago Fire is 30 percent contained, the Buckweed Fire is 27 percent contained, the Ranch Fire is 10 percent contained, the Canyon Fire is 8 percent contained and the Harris Fire is 5 percent contained. The other six blazes are zero percent contained.
About 8,000 firefighters and 1,000 engines are working to contain the fires in Southern California. Approximately 500,000 people were evacuated from their homes and thousands of structures across the state are threatened by the fires.