Alisal fire efforts turn to preparedness for expected Sunday night storm | Local News
Efforts have shifted from extinguishing the Alisal fire to repairing the blaze-ravaged hills of the Gaviota coast and preparing residents for possible debris flows from a major rainstorm that should blow on the central coast this weekend.
The Oxnard National Weather Service forecasts moderate to heavy rains beginning Sunday evening and continuing through Monday, with total precipitation ranging from 1 to 3 inches in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
Immediate efforts are focused on preventing, or at least mitigating, mud and debris that rain could cascading into the canyons of the burnt area, especially along Refugio Road, officials said.
“People who live, work and visit the Alisal burn area should be aware of the threat of flash floods and mudslides and debris,” said Gina DePinto, communications manager for Santa Barbara County.
“It is imperative to understand the gravity of the situation and be prepared to take action to protect yourself, as well as family, pets and all tenants, visitors and workers,” DePinto said.
Teams from Santa Barbara County delivered piles of sand and pallets of sandbags to an area on Calle Real near the intersection with Refugio Road so residents of the burnt area could protect their homes.
The county public works department is particularly concerned about the low water crossings on the Refugio Canyon creek and planned to build a three-quarter-mile diversion around the bottom crossing.
DePinto said a team of geologists and experts in other scientific fields are currently assessing the damage and trying to determine how watersheds will respond to precipitation.
But Jon Frye, technical director of the public works department’s water resources division, said that following a forest fire, even a small amount of rain can cause debris flows.
He said county departments had cleaned up the canals from the streams, but advised residents to prepare to leave before a debris flow struck.
“Stay on top of your surroundings, stay on top of the weather forecast and log on to readysbc.org and take advantage of all the resources available on this website,” he said.
“And keep in touch with your family, your neighbors and be ready to go,” he said. “Prepare now.”
Damage assessment is performed by the US Forest Service Burn Area Emergency Response, or BAER, scientists and the Cal Fire Watershed Emergency Response Team, or WERT.
The teams will recommend measures to minimize threats, prevent further damage and restore the watershed.
In addition to debris flows in the burnt area of Alisal, the National Weather Service has warned of possible road flooding elsewhere, as well as gusts of wind in the mountains, dangerous seas and strong waves.
The number of acres burned by the Alisal fire was reduced on Friday, apparently due to more precise mapping, from the previous revised total of 17,281 acres to 16,962 acres, according to statistics from the US Forest Service.
Containment remained at 97%, as the withdrawal of firefighting personnel continued, with numbers increasing from 492 on Wednesday to 298 on Friday morning, officials from the Los Padres National Forest said.
Slow burning and flames continued to seep into and around the fuel islands along the ridge line at the northwest corner of the burn area, where the perimeter had yet to be closed on Friday. fire officials said.
The Santa Barbara County Operational Zone Type 3 Incident Management team still anticipates full containment by Monday.
Cal Fire’s damage inspection team of specialists determined 12 homes had been destroyed and an outhouse damaged by the fire, but the Santa Barbara County Fire Department said an additional home had damaged, as well as structures and equipment at the Tajiguas Materials Recovery Center.
The Santa Barbara Ranger District of the Los Padres National Forest remains closed to the public until November 16.