Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Closure to Gap Fire begins to show


Although fire officials pushed back the expected containment date for the 9,443-acre Gap Fire still smoldering in the hills above Goleta, signs of closure to the blaze that had threatened thousands of homes just a week ago have started to crop up.

Authorities lifted the final mandatory evacuation Tuesday morning, allowing residents to return to a scattering of homes along West Camino Cielo west of Windermere Ranch.
Officials had changed the estimated containment date from Wednesday to July 22, citing potential for spot fires outside of containment lines in the northeast and northwest regions.
Only 140 personnel remain on the scene, cleaning up containment lines and keeping an eye on hot spots.
As firefighting efforts began to wind down, local fire officials took the opportunity to thank the community for its cooperation during the blaze, which started on July 1 and forced thousands from their homes as it marched toward Goleta.
“During the hours and days of major impact, the immediate threats to person and property and the displacement caused by mass evacuations, your full attention and participation allowed your firefighters to accomplish their primary mission; that of saving lives, preserving personal property and protecting our environment,” Capt. Eli Iskow said on behalf of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. “Your positive actions following the mandatory evacuations and leaving those areas when required to do so, helped us to successfully accomplish that mission.
“We are also grateful for your maintaining the defensible space around your homes, and for the countless acts of cooperation, understanding, goodwill and generosity towards us.”
Health officials also lifted a precautionary air quality advisory for all areas of the county other than Goleta, where the warning remains in effect due to expected higher particle pollution levels.
Officials urged residents to avoid using leaf blowers and to divert water used to spray off areas to lawns or garden areas to keep ashes out of runoff systems and creeks.
As firefighters focused their efforts on extinguishing the few remaining hot spots in the hills above Goleta, forest officials unveiled a series of new fire restrictions in the Los Padres National Forest designed to prevent similar blazes.
Wood and charcoal fires are outlawed in all areas of the forest, including campgrounds and designated campfire sites. Portable stoves and lanterns are allowed in all areas, although a California Campfire Permit is required to use a stove outside of campgrounds and campfire sites.
Authorities also prohibited recreational target shooting throughout the forest, exempting the Winchester Gun Club and the Ojai Valley Gun Club. Those with valid hunting licenses are also exempt.
Smoking is outlawed in all areas except in an enclosed vehicle, building or designated campfire site. Internal combustion engines are allowed only on designated roads or trails and approved spark arresters are necessary year-round.
All other restrictions go into effect this Friday and will continue through the end of the high fire season, likely in October or November. More information on forest conditions, requirements and closures is available at www.fs.fed.us/r5/lospadres.

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