it turns out that hot tubs and light ashfall are a bad mix
so we had a fairly major fire here in the mountains;
one of my colleagues here pretty much saw it start – the site is clearly visible outside the “fishbowl tower room” where we were having a research group meeting.
He pointed it out to me a few minutes before 2, and the fire is thought to have started at 1:45 or so.
Fire wasn’t much tuesday, but threatened some homes and had the potential to be very serious.
Wednesday we had a KITP picnic at the beach, with clear view of the fire.
The winds picked up and the fire got bad, but was still limited.
Thursday, again, the fire seemed to be getting limited, when strong winds picked up early in the afternoon, we came out of Campbell Hall at dusk, and saw walls of fire racing across and down the mountain.
Even from several miles away the view was astonishing; very vivid orange and red flames flaring over ridges and visible jumping ahead of the main wall of flame.
The evacuation zone expanded dramatically to read east Goleta and much of downtown Santa Barbara.
We started packing, anticipating that if the winds were strong on friday the fire would move west and we would have to evacuate, either to LA, or Santa Cruz if the 101 got cut.
On two occasion thursday night the fire crossed the Foothill road into the more builtup area – once at the San Roque canyon bridge, where it was stopped, I hear, by 10 or more tenders lining the bridge and under it, hosing down the flames as the came across; the other was near the Goleta/Santa Barbara boundary, where embers started fires across the road but were jumped on by firefighters.
Key to the effort were the very large numbers of firefighters, over 3000 by then, which held the line at the edge of town, and on the mountain ridges so the fire did not get into the backside of the mountains, and on the flanks of the fire.
Also hundreds of homes in the foothills were saved, basically because there were enough crews to station a tender at each house in succession – many houses had fire on all sides but were saved by firefighters on the spot.
Friday schools were closed, but the weather turned, and all we got was light ashfall.
We spent much of the day up the coast at a ranch, riding and helping a little bit with horses.
We had some serious panic in the afternoon when fire tenders and a command vehicle came dashing through our neighbourhood going up the canyon.
We were told by neighbour they were taking up position at the top of the road, and we should get ready to move out.
It was a false alarm, there was a “normal” fire – someone’s car had overheated and caught fire in their driveway…
Neighbours came over to tell us, they had already loaded much of their art into the car.
Saturday and sunday were cool, damp and calm.
Fire is now mostly contained, though we may get some warmer weather with winds by tuesday.
Many firecrews have been sent back, and when we took the local firefighters the second batch of A.’s legendary homemade blueberry muffins and homemade lemonade they were feeling very relaxed, cleaning the equipment, catching up on station work and letting our munchkins climb all over the engines and jetskis.
Sounds like final tally will be 10,000 or so acres burned, just under 100 houses destroyed.
Could have been a lot worse.