California firefighters scrambled overnight on Wednesday as the 14,500-acre blaze continues to burn in Santa Barbara County. Officials are concerned that strong winds, which prompted a wind advisory for the area Wednesday, may lead to heavy flames.
According to the US Forest Service, the Alisal fire is just five per cent contained.
Santa Barbara County Supervisor Joan Hartmann, at a community briefing said, “This fire is a reminder that as summer winds down, our fire season ramps up.” More than 1,300 personnel are responding to the wildfire.
#Alisal Fire – UPDATE- 7 a.m. briefing held at ICP/Earl Warren Showgrounds. 14,500 acres, 5% contained. 1,300 personnel assigned with more on the way. Hoping for favorable winds for fixed-wing aircraft to engage. Photos by Christina Favuzzi/MFD pic.twitter.com/81IA8b1HsY
— SBCFireInfo (@EliasonMike) October 13, 2021
“The main constraint has been heavy winds that have limited safe access to suppress the fire and limited the use of aircraft to engage and support fire suppression,” an incident report said.
The cause of the fire, which began near the Alisal Reservoir on Monday afternoon, remains under investigation, the state’s fire agency Cal Fire said.
Air pollution in the area was deemed unhealthy for sensitive groups by air quality technology company IQAir. The area also had a concentration of the pollutant PM2.5 nearly four times higher than what the World Health Organization recommends for air quality.
The company recommended that the sensitive groups in affected areas wear a face mask while outdoors. The use of an air purifier has also been recommended.
Santa Barbara County fire chief Mark Hartwig said that the Alisal is a “wind-driven” fire, noting that the weather has helped to spread its flames quickly.
Fully containing the wildfire could take weeks, he added.
In order to prevent additional wildfires from igniting, energy provider Pacific Gas and Electric issued public safety power shutoffs in 12 counties throughout California.
“As a result of this wind event, combined with extreme to exceptional drought conditions and extremely dry vegetation, PG&E began sending one-day advance notifications Wednesday morning to customers in areas where PG&E may need to proactively turn off power for safety to reduce the risk of wildfire from energised power lines,” the company warned.
Scientists say human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels, is warming the planet and changing weather patterns. This is contributing in making wildfires hotter, more intense and more destructive.
Along with other parts of the western United States, California has struggled under a years-long drought that has left various region’s tinder dry.