Monday, July 30, 2007

Zaca Fire flares up again


A blanket of smoke spread across the Santa Barbara sky Saturday afternoon, a bleak sign that the Zaca Fire launched another rapid spread through the wilderness after several days of low activity.
Fire officials ordered residents in Peachtree Canyon to evacuate after flames jumped over the top of San Rafael Mountain and toward their community. High temperatures, low humidity and older trees and shrubs likely initiated the flare-up, U.S. Forest Service Fire Spokesman Joe Pasinato said.

“The fire is moving to the southwest, taking it closer to the Peachtree Canyon area,” Pasinato said. “I’m not aware of any structures being lost at this time.”
About 10 to 12 cabins are in immediate danger, he said, and an evacuation warning for Happy Canyon north of Baseline Road is also in effect.
Pasinato said winds out of the northeast fanned the flames, which had been burning in a bowl-like area in the San Rafael Wilderness before leaping out along the uncontained portion of the fire.
Forecasters expected winds to shift to the northwest yesterday evening and night, lessening the threat to that area. Pasinato expects the fire to continue its “dramatic run” today, although the forecast calls for a minor break in the hot weather.
Although official figures had not been reported late yesterday evening, officials estimate the fire has scorched more than 1,500 acres since Saturday afternoon in rugged areas that are inaccessible to fire crews. Since it started on July 4, the Zaca Fire has ravaged over 32,000 acres, with an estimated $36.5 million spent fighting the blaze.
Officials called in several hundred additional firefighting resources yesterday, and Pasinato said there should be between 500 and 1,000 additional personnel on the fire by today.
“We’ve reestablished our base camp at Live Oak Campground,” Pasinato said. “We expect the fire to be very active.”
Fire engines are currently guarding the Peachtree Canyon structures, and aircraft and helicopters continued to drop fire retardant and water on the flames yesterday. Yesterday, fire officials revised the expected containment date to September 7, more than a month later than their prediction only a few days ago of August 3.

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