Highway 101 remained closed Wednesday morning at its midpoint in Santa Barbara County as a wildfire that started Oct. 11 continued to burn through the hills northwest of Goleta.
The Alisal Fire jumped Highway 101 along the Gaviota coast on Oct. 12 and sent smoke and ash into downtown Santa Barbara and even Ventura County. By the end of Oct. 12 the fire covered 13,400 acres, according to an update issued early in the morning on Oct. 13 by federal, state and county firefighting agencies. The fire was 5% contained and officials estimated a containment date of Oct. 25.
The Highway 101 closure stretches from the western edge of Goleta to the intersection of Highway 1 just north of Gaviota State Beach, and cuts off the primary route between Santa Barbara and communities to the north including Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo. Highway 154 through the Santa Ynez Valley remains open as an alternate route, though it is a windy and narrow mountain road in many places. Rail lines were closed as well.
The origin of the fire is unknown. It started around 2:15 p.m. on Oct. 11 in Refugio Canyon, a few miles north of Refugio State Beach. In its first two days it burned north toward the Santa Ynez Valley and south to the coast, burning areas around Rancho Del Cielo, Ronald Reagan’s Santa Barbara County ranch when he was president, and had forced evacuations of campgrounds at El Capitan and Refugio as well as the Alisal Guest Ranch.
On Oct. 13, fire officials expected it to continue to move into Gato Canyon at its western edge. “Significant growth potential exists due to forecasted northwest to north winds over the fire area pushing the fire both east and west of Refugio Canyon,” fire officials stated in their Oct. 13 bulletin.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department has issued evacuation orders for Arroyo Hondo Canyon, Refugio Canyon, and the area between El Capitan Beach State Park and West Camino Cielo, and evacuation warnings for the area east of El Capitan Beach State Park, west of Dos Pueblos Canyon Rd, and south of West Camino Cielo.
The American Red Cross has set up an evacuation center at Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta. Evacuees who need help can call the Red Cross at 833-583-3111.