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Whittier Fire burns almost 12,000 acres, stays at 48 percent containment

Flames from the Whittier Fire near Lake Cachuma burn toward a ranch on the south side of Highway 154.
Flames from the Whittier Fire near Lake Cachuma burn toward a ranch on the south side of Highway 154. Ray Ford

Update Wednesday, 7:30 a.m.

The Whittier Fire grew about 700 acres to 11,920 and containment stayed at 48 percent overnight, Cal Fire said.

Update 6:30 p.m

The Whittier Fire grew over 450 acres to 11,281 on Tuesday afternoon, but crews were also able to increase containment from 25 to 48 percent. U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Lee Beyer said crews are concentrating efforts on an active fire in Hot Springs Canyon that could present some issues into the night and early morning.

The fire lines on the hills leading down into Santa Barbara and Goleta made no significant progress Tuesday and have been quiet the last two days, Beyer said.

Original Story

The mandatory evacuation order in place for Farren Road has been downgraded to a warning, according to Santa Barbara County. Containment of the Whittier fire has remained the same since Monday night.

Containment of the fire, which is burning in the Santa Ynez Mountains, reached 25 percent on Monday. That number, a jump from the 5 percent containment reported on Monday morning, remained the same on Tuesday morning.

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.”

A U.S. Forest Service firefighter surveys flames as the Whittier Fire burns along Highway 154 near Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara County on Saturday, July 8, 2017.

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.

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, Farren Road.

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.

Tribune reporter Gabby Ferreira contributed to this story.

Travis Gibson: 805-781-7993, @TravisDgibson

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