California wildfire now half contained amid calmer weather
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) — Firefighters persisted in making progress Saturday against a wildfire burning for a sixth day in Southern California coastal mountains.
The Alisal Fire in the Santa Ynez Mountains west of Santa Barbara grew only slightly since Friday to nearly 27 square miles (69 square kilometers). It was 50% contained.
The improved situation allowed authorities Friday evening to cancel evacuation orders for some remote properties.
Crews getting help from water-dropping aircraft were focusing on the blaze’s western edge, fire spokeswoman Kristen Allison said. On the eastern boundary, flames stalled when they moved into a burn scar from a 2016 wildfire, she said.
“It has helped slow that spread toward the east. In fact it hasn’t really moved, except for a couple pieces in small canyons on that eastern side,” Allison said Saturday.
In its first damage report, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department said Friday that of more than 400 structures that were threatened by the fire, three homes and two outbuildings were destroyed.
The fire erupted during fierce winds Monday afternoon and spread rapidly down the face of the mountain range, leaping a highway and railroad to the beach below. Firefighting weather greatly improved since then, allowing airplanes and helicopters to bombard the fire with retardant and water.
To the north, firefighters corralled a small wildfire that broke out from a prescribed burn Friday in Santa Cruz County and briefly triggered evacuations, officials said.
Some rain and snow was expected Sunday in Northern California, and long-range National Weather Service forecasts suggested a possible pattern of more significant precipitation that would help ease wildfire risks.
California wildfires have scorched nearly 3,900 square miles (10,101 square kilometers) this year and destroyed more than 3,600 homes, businesses and other structures, according to the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
A historic drought in the American West tied to climate change is making wildfires harder to fight. It has killed millions of trees in California alone. Scientists say climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.