Fires

After 3 months, Whittier Fire near Lake Cachuma is finally fully contained

Flames from the Whittier Fire near Lake Cachuma burn toward a ranch on the south side of Highway 154 on Saturday, July 8, 2017.
Flames from the Whittier Fire near Lake Cachuma burn toward a ranch on the south side of Highway 154 on Saturday, July 8, 2017. Noozhawk.com

Nearly three months after it broke out, the Whittier Fire was declared 100 percent contained Thursday by Los Padres National Forest officials.

“The Forest Service conducted a final infrared flight on Oct. 2 that revealed some lingering heat sources,” Santa Barbara District Ranger Pancho Smith said. “But they are far enough inside the lines that it does not pose a threat to adjacent communities or risk escaping the containment lines.”

The 18,430-acre blaze that straddled the Santa Ynez Mountains had remained stuck at 87 percent containment for weeks.

Holding up a declaration of full containment was a 5-mile-long section of fire line on the rugged south flank of the fire, in the Condor Point area west of Goleta.

The previous aerial survey of the fire — using helicopters that employ infrared technology at night to detect hot spots — “still had a little bit of heat up above that line,” Smith told Noozhawk in September.

A closure order on West Camino Cielo will remain in effect until the fire is fully controlled and declared out, Smith said.

The blaze broke out July 8 near Camp Whittier and Lake Cachuma in the Santa Ynez Valley.

It spread quickly, driven by gusty conditions, and prompted hundreds of evacuations and road closures on both sides of the mountains.

Sixteen residences were destroyed and another one was damaged, while 30 outbuildings were destroyed, with six more damaged.

The fire heavily damaged The Outdoor School and the Rancho Alegre Boy Scout camp, where most buildings burned to the ground.

Also damaged were Camp Whitter and the Circle V Ranch Camp.

Investigators have determined that the blaze was “human caused,” Smith said, but no details have been released, and it officially remains “under investigation.”

It is unknown if any civil or criminal legal action will be taken, Smith added.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at tbolton@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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