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Lake Fire Command opens second base camp as resources increase | Local News

Lake Fire Command opens second base camp as resources increase | Local News

Five days after the fire broke out near Los Olivos, the Lake Fire area has grown to 28,987 acres and 2,760 troops are deployed. Due to the complexity of the incident, commanders have established a second base camp.

The fire broke out on Santa Lucia Road near Zaca Lake on Friday afternoon and spread quickly as a heat warning was issued for the area.

Containment remained at 16% as crews continued to work to contain the fire on Wednesday.

Away from the fire front, there will be changes that take into account the complexity of the operation and capacity problems.

The influx of additional resources will result in the opening of a second fire depot at the Santa Maria Speedway, 1900 Hutton Road in Nipomo in southern San Luis Obispo County.

The original camp at the Santa Maria Elks/Unocal Event Center is packed with firefighting equipment and support facilities. Tents are scattered throughout and sleeper vans have been set up on the grounds.

During the foggy Lake Fire briefing Wednesday morning, incident commanders spoke with crews heading to the fire fronts. From left: Anthony Stornetta of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Todd Hopkins of Cal Fire and Joshua Boehm of the U.S. Forest Service.
During the foggy Lake Fire briefing Wednesday morning, incident commanders spoke with crews heading to the fire fronts. From left: Anthony Stornetta of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Todd Hopkins of Cal Fire and Joshua Boehm of the U.S. Forest Service. Credit: Janene Scully / Noozhawk Photo

Despite this change, firefighting efforts will continue under joint leadership of the U.S. Forest Service, Cal Fire and Santa Barbara County Fire, Lake Fire officials said.

“We will continue to fight this fire together. We will continue to lead you through the fire together,” said Joshua Boehm of the U.S. Forest Service, one of Team 13’s incident commanders.

“We want this to run smoothly. We shouldn’t lose efficiency and you should do your job as if nothing ever happened at the camp,” said Anthony Stornetta, deputy chief of operations for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

In addition to the 2,485 personnel, the Lake Fire has 11 helicopters, 225 fire trucks, 62 bulldozers, 39 water trucks and 70 hand crews assigned to it.

Demanding conditions in firefighting

On Wednesday morning, emergency managers stressed that firefighters should pay attention to safety.

“It’s a pretty unforgiving surface,” Boehm said. “We had some serious injuries a few days ago.”

Two firefighters were reportedly injured this week, one was taken to a burn center, and others suffered from poison ivy and heat exhaustion, as well as minor health problems.

Firefighters who responded to the fire fronts on Wednesday were told to expect changing wind conditions.

Instead of winds from the north driving the fire south, winds generally blow from the west-southwest, which could alter the smoke in the region.

The Lake Fire, seen from the Sedgwick Reserve area in the Santa Ynez Valley on Tuesday evening.
The Lake Fire, seen from the Sedgwick Reserve area in the Santa Ynez Valley on Tuesday evening. Credit: Ray Ford / Noozhawk Photo

With twice as much dry and tall grass in the area, firefighters continue to contend with fine fuels.

“There could be twice as much grass, and it’s taller and very flammable,” said Dan Michael, a fire behavior trainee with the response team. “And that was the main reason for that fire behavior.”

For several days, the fire has been spreading steadily about a mile to the south, Michael added.

“Even though the wind direction has changed and it’s no longer a northerly wind, it will still move south because it’s primarily driven by these fuels and topography,” Michael added. “The exception to this is where mitigation measures are taken.”

In some areas, the wind direction is favorable for firefighting efforts because it pushes the flames into areas that have already burned.

He reminded crews, who may remain on the line during the day, that the fire is also active at night.

On Monday, emergency crews deployed helicopters overnight to protect the Happy Canyon area, Stornetta told county supervisors. That’s unusual, but this fire “burns all night,” he said.

A heat warning is in effect for Figueroa Mountain and other mountainous regions in inland Santa Barbara County through Saturday night; temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit are expected.

Evacuations and road closures due to the lake fire

The fire perimeter extends approximately 8 miles from Los Olivos.

Evacuation orders have been in effect since Wednesday for remote communities and areas of the Los Padres National Forest, including Figueroa Mountain Road and Happy Canyon.

Click here to view an interactive map showing current evacuation orders and warning areas.

“Significant fire activity on the southeast side of the fire area has resulted in additional evacuations and an increase in the fire area,” Los Padres National Forest officials said Wednesday morning.

“Since the Lake Fire began, 1,500 people have been evacuated. There were some injuries to firefighters, but these were not life-threatening. Medical care was quick and effective as firefighter safety remains the top priority.”

A Lake Fire map shows valid evacuation orders (in red) and valid evacuation warnings (in orange) for Santa Barbara County. The “Santa Barbara” noted on the map indicates the county. The city of Santa Barbara is located approximately 35 miles southeast of Los Olivos. Credit: Screenshot via Santa Barbara County

Highway 154 is not within the evacuation zone, but authorities are advising people to use Highway 101 instead to avoid delays caused by the fire. A one-way traffic policy is still in effect near Painted Cave Road on the Santa Barbara side of Highway 154 for emergency repairs.

Road closures include:

  • Happy Canyon Road on the Forest Service boundary
  • Foxen Canyon Road at Zaca Station Road and Alisos Canyon Road
  • Figueroa Mountain Road at Midland School.

Click here to view a map of road closures in the county.

Visit Santa Barbara County’s readysbc.org page for more information on evacuations, animal evacuations, and agricultural passes for access to agricultural lands in evacuation and road closure areas.

The Santa Barbara County Call Center is open daily until 7 p.m. at 833.688.5551 and offers residents additional information and resources regarding the Lake Fire.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.