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Alamo Fire grows to 24,000 acres, now largest fire burning in California

Air attack on the Alamo Fire east of Santa Maria

The "extreme fire activity" of the Alamo Fire east of Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County is mostly being fought by air because of the rugged terrain. Here's some of the footage, courtesy Cal Fire SLO.
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The "extreme fire activity" of the Alamo Fire east of Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County is mostly being fought by air because of the rugged terrain. Here's some of the footage, courtesy Cal Fire SLO.

Update: 6 p.m.

As of 6 p.m. Sunday, the blaze had burned 23,867 acres and was 15 percent contained, Cal Fire reported. One structure had been destroyed and 133 were threatened. A total of 1,664 personnel were battling the blaze, which had been burning since Thursday afternoon.

Another update is expected within the hour.

Update: 2:30 p.m.

The fire is still at 23,867 acres with 10 percent containment, according to Cal Fire San Luis Obispo Chief Scott Jalbert. No structures have been burned in the fire, but 133 structures are currently threatened, he said.

Firefighters are seeing “dangerous and critical fire behavior,” but they are making good progress on the northern and eastern sides of the fire.

Original story:

The Alamo Fire east of Santa Maria grew to nearly 24,000 acres acres overnight and remains at 10 percent containment, fire officials said Sunday morning.

It’s the largest fire burning in California. The Whittier Fire in Santa Barbara County is the third-largest as of Sunday morning.

Crews fighting the Alamo Fire expect continued hot weather and low humidity throughout the day, with morning temperatures already in the 80s in the fire area, officials said. The focus of Sunday’s containment efforts will be along Tepusquet Road at the fire’s eastern edge, Cal Fire San Luis Obispo County spokesman Chris Elms said. He said crews will attempt to prevent the fire from spreading west of Tepusquet Peak and protect homes in the Tepusquet Canyon area. Officials said 58 crews, including air support, are fighting the fire Sunday.

The American Red Cross is set up in the Miniami Community Center in Santa Maria, and the SLO County Horse Emergency Evacuation Team (H.E.E.T) helps round up horses on Sunday, July 9, 2017, to take to the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo grounds.

Elms said officials are not aware of any structures that have been destroyed. The fire had nearly tripled in size Saturday afternoon, growing to 19,000 acres.

Evacuation orders remain in place for the following areas:

▪ Blazing Saddle Drive

▪ Tepusquet Road, south of Blazing Saddle Drive to Santa Maria Mesa Road.

Alamo Fire map
The Alamo Fire briefing map set up at the Elks Rodeo grounds at the fire command center in Santa Maria shows the expanse of the 24,000-acre blaze. Gabby Ferreira gferreira@thetribunenews.com

The American Red Cross has opened an evacuation center at the Minami Community Center at 600 W. Enos Drive in Santa Maria. For evacuation assistance, contact the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office at 805-683-2724.

Doreen Ross, the shelter supervisor at the Minami Community Center, said six people stayed overnight at the shelter Saturday. The day before that, 10 people stayed.

“We’ll stay as long as we’re needed,” Ross said. “We know lots of families don’t want to leave their homes, and we’re here for them.”

Ross said any physical donations, such as blankets, should be taken to the Salvation Army in Santa Maria. Monetary donations can be given to the Red Cross.

For help with animals, residents are asked to call Santa Barbara County Animal Services at 805-681-4332 before bringing any pets to a shelter. Large animals can be taken to the Elks Rodeo grounds at 4040 Highway 1 in Santa Maria.

Debbie Jones, a volunteer with the Horse Emergency Evacuation Team of San Luis Obispo County, was at the Elks Rodeo grounds Sunday morning, watching over four horses that had been evacuated.

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“We’re waiting to see everything cleared so the horses can return,” Jones said. “So far, they’re doing okay. They’re doing really, really well.”

“I just feel bad for all the other animals up there,” she said. “We were told the weather’s in our favor, and I’m praying that it is.”

At 23,867 acres, the Alamo Fire was the largest fire burning in California as of Sunday morning, according to Cal Fire. The next largest wildfire was the Schaeffer Fire burning in Tulare County, about 17 miles north of Kernville. That fire was 14,342 acres and 11 percent contained.

The third-largest fire is the “out of control” Whittier Fire near Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara County. The Whittier Fire, which started Saturday along Highway 154, is 7,800 acres and 5 percent contained.

About 5,000 firefighters are battling 14 large wildfires in California.

A look at the destructive aftermath of the Alamo Fire, which burned along Highway 166 on Saturday, July 8, 2017. The fire had grown to 19,000 acres as of 5 p.m. Saturday and was still raging in a remote area of Santa Barbara County.

An all-agency Alamo Fire briefing was held at the fire command post near Santa Maria on Sunday morning, July 9, 2017, to plan strategy for the day. Here's an update from Cal Fire PIO Chris Elms.

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