Firefighters are making progress on several wildfires burning throughout California, including the weeks-long Whittier Fire in Santa Barbara County. The threat level on the east side of the fire has been reduced significantly and, with conditions improving, some evacuation orders have been lifted, according to Cal FIRE.
Burning in the Lake Cachuma area, south of Highway 154, the Whittier Fire is now 18,015 acres and 49 percent contained. On just the Whittier Fire alone, there are 1,612 firefighters assigned, including 103 fire engines, 38 hand-crews, 16 dozers, 14 helicopters, and 22 water tenders and 18 bulldozers. The coordinated public safety effort consists of various local, state and federal agencies including Santa Barbara County Sheriff, California Highway Patrol, Caltrans, Southern CA Edison, PG&E, Goleta Water District, Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management, American Red Cross and others.
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. declared a State of Emergency for Santa Barbara County on July 16 due to the effects of the Alamo and Whittier fires, which have burned thousands of acres, damaged agriculture, businesses and critical infrastructure including power lines, threatened homes and caused the evacuation of residents. The Alamo Fire is now 98 percent contained after scorching nearly 29,000 acres.
Extreme heat across the state combined with dry vegetation from winter rain growth created ideal wildfire conditions. California also is recovering from a historic six-year drought.
Earlier this month, Cal OES tasked the California National Guard to deploy several aircraft to support local, state and federal firefighters. The aircraft included three Army Black Hawk and two Air Force Pave Hawk helicopters for Northern California fires and three more Black Hawks and two Air Force C-130J airtankers to be stationed in Southern California.
On July 9, Governor Brown issued an emergency proclamation for Butte County due to the effects of the Wall Fire, which burned hundreds of acres, damaged critical infrastructure, threatened homes and caused the evacuation of residents.
Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci also secured a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help ensure the availability of vital resources to suppress the Wall Fire. The FMAG enables local, state and tribal agencies to recover eligible costs.
Through California’s mutual-aid system, more than 400 local government and Cal OES engines/tenders have been deployed on the front lines at wildfires from Siskiyou County in the north to Santa Barbara County in the south. Originally adopted in 1950, the purpose of the mutual aid plan is to: provide systematic mobilization, organization, and operation of necessary fire and rescue resources; provide comprehensive and compatible plans for the expedient mobilization and response; establish guidelines for recruiting and training auxiliary personnel to augment regularly organized fire and rescue personnel during disaster operations; provide an annually-updated fire and rescue inventory of all personnel, apparatus, and equipment in California; provide a plan and communication facilities for the interchange and dissemination of fire and rescue-related data, directives, and information between fire and rescue officials of local, state, and federal agencies.; and promote annual training and/or exercises between plan participants.
Cal OES also is able to reach out to its mutual aid partners requesting assistance from other states through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) – the nation’s mutual-aid system – if needed. EMAC, which includes the participation of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, is a nationally recognized mutual-aid system that provides the foundation for states impacted by a disaster to request and send resources across state borders.
Below is an updated list of nine active wildfires:
County: Santa Barbara
County: San Bernardino
County: San Luis Obispo