Alisal Fire Only 5% Contained As Evacuations Ordered In Santa Barbara County

Image: Frank Schulenburg via Wikimedia Commons

By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor

As California’s summer fire season comes to a close, autumn’s Santa Ana winds have intensified a fast-moving wildfire now terrorizing Santa Barbara County. The Alisal fire began Monday afternoon. Since then, it has engulfed 16,801 acres and is only 5% contained, according to CalFire. As a result, a portion of Highway 101 has been closed, along with an Amtrak shutdown.


Why This Matters: Although the 2021 wildfire season has been less intense than 2020’s, this year saw some of the largest fires in the nation’s history, including July’s Dixie fire, which is still burning and not expected to reach full containment until the end of October. Experts say that intense fire seasons are becoming the new normal; more than half of California’s 20 largest wildfires have burned in just the last four years. What’s more — wildfire season is starting earlier and ending later each year. Neil Lareau, an atmospheric scientist and professor at the University of Nevada, finds climate change to be the primary culprit, stating: “It’s lengthening fire season. It’s giving us more days that are burning at a higher intensity. And the result of that is massive fires. They’re more intense, and they’re producing more extreme fire weather.”


Great Balls of Fire

The Alisal fire has been tough to contain for firefighters due to intense winds of up to 50 mph carrying flames fast and far. At least 1,600 personnel are currently fighting the blaze. Still, evacuation orders are now in effect and Pacific Gas & Electric, whose equipment has previously caused deadly fires, issued public safety power shutoffs in 12 counties, which will impact about 16,000 customers.


Additionally, in a news release issued by the Air Pollution Control District of Santa Barbara County, residents are urged to stay indoors, stay hydrated, and avoid driving. “This is a dynamic situation, and local air quality conditions can change quickly.” 



Ten other fires are burning simultaneously across California, including the Caldor Fire, which forced tens of thousands to evacuate Lake Tahoe in September, and the KNP Complex Fire, which may have burned hundreds of giant sequoias.

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