Whittier Fire containment jumps to 25 percent

Fire crews were able to take advantage of shifting winds to make significant progress on the Whittier Fire on Monday. Just under 850 firefighters were able to get 25-percent containment throughout Monday afternoon on the fire burning in the Santa Ynez Mountains on both sides of Hwy 154 near Lake Cachuma after having just 5-percent containment Monday morning, according to Cal Fire.

The acres burned from the fire which started on Saturday held steady at 10,823.

Cal Fire gave an update on Monday’s conditions in a media release: “Today as the weather pattern shifted back to an onshore flow smoke from the fire pushed over the burn area into the east Santa Ynez Valley and San Marcos Pass. As smoke shaded the area fire behavior decreased significantly creating an opportunity for firefighters build containment line directly on the fire’s edge. Bulldozers are working the east flank from the near Winchester Gun Club toward Hwy. 154. On the west side of the fire firefighters improved initial firelines and scouted for an area to complete the line up to the Santa Ynez Ridge. Near Lake Cachuma, firefighters were able to declare a portion of the fireline contained. Fire managers continue to work with ranchers and property owners to plan construction of line along the base of the foothills. The fire has crossed the ridgeline and is backing downslope over Gato, Winchester and Glen Annie Canyons but higher humidity levels have slowed the rate of spread.”

Hwy 154 from Hwy 246 to Foothill Road remains closed.

Cal Fire added that the rapid growth of the Whittier Fire is in part due to a combination of things: “The slope that the fire is primarily burning on is comprised of Oak trees and brush that has not burned since the Refugio Fire in 1955. Over the last several years these fuels have been stressed by the exceptional drought conditions and a high percentage of the fuel bed is dead. The combination of old, dry fuels with a newly cured heavy grass crop contributed to the rapid growth of this fire.”

Mandatory Evacuations: Highway 154 from Armour Ranch (west side) to Paradise Road (east side), West Camino Cielo at Highway 154 to Winchester Gun Club, Kinevan Road, Farren Road.

Evacuation Warning: Las Varas Canyon east to Winchester Canyon and from Highway 101 north to West Camino Cielo, Paradise Road from Highway 154 to the first river crossing.

Evacuation Shelters: The American Red Cross has opened evacuation shelters at San Marcos High School, 4750 Hollister Ave., Goleta. The Santa Ynez shelter is prepared to open if necessary.

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