Cave fire evacuations lifted in Santa Barbara as rain falls
Evacuation orders have been lifted for some 6,400 residents in Santa Barbara as rains helped suppress the Camp fire near Highway 101, which had grown to 4,300 acres Nov. 27.
With more precipitation expected over the Thanksgiving holiday, residents could face additional evacuations as county fire officials watch the area closely for signs of potential mudslides.
“It’s going to be a concern if we get a lot of rain in a short amount of time,” said Santa Barbara County Fire Department Public Information Officer Mike Eliason.
A cold storm expected overnight could even deliver snow flurries in the active fire area, he said.
“You never get to say that in California. We’ll take any precipitation we can get, and snow is easier. It’ll last longer and it won’t melt as fast.”
In addition to muddy conditions for firefighters to contend with, Los Padres forest staff are taking soil samples and analyzing runoff to determine the risk of debris flows in the area above Foothill Road between Fair View Avenue and Las Posas Road. County officials are also working on a plan in case the need arises to conduct evacuations over Thanksgiving.
“This whole rainy season, it’s going to be a concern as well,” Eliason said.
Despite the rains, the fire continued to burn — often under the surface.
“There are still a lot of stubborn smokes that are deep seeded that somebody needs to go out there and grub them out,” he said. “You don’t want any winds to come up and carry those embers outside the fire area.”
He thanked residents for heeding evacuation warnings, particularly ahead of the busy holiday.
“We know it’s a burden and we really appreciate them evacuating when we asked them to,” Eliason said.
Rain affected northern portions of the region first, said meteorologist Lisa Phillips of the National Weather Service in Oxnard. Most of the Tri-Counties got at least an inch of rain, with heavier rainfall in the mountain areas.
NWS expects similar amounts again on Thursday, “probably looking at doubling these totals,” before it tapers off Thursday night in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties and Friday in Ventura County.
Isolated hail incidents like one that hit Atascadero could also see repeats.
The agency is working with fire departments across the region to monitor recent fire areas like the Saddle Ridge, Cave and Getty fires, as well as the large footprint of the Woolsey fire, for rain that tops thresholds that could trigger debris flows.
“We are watching the burn areas really closely,” Phillips said. “If we have those stronger, more intense showers in the area, we want to make sure we don’t see higher rain rates in those regions.”
• Contact Marissa Nall at firstname.lastname@example.org.