Los Padres firefighters responded to reports of a wildfire on the Santa Lucia Ranger District shortly after 1:00 pm on September 3. When the first crews arrived on scene, initial estimates put the fire at 100 acres burning just north of the Sisquoc River between Horse Canyon and Tunnel Canyon near the historic Tunnel Ranch property.
The fire, called the Figueroa Fire, is burning in mostly steep, narrow canyons at elevations ranging from 1,000 feet to 2,500 feet. The vegetation in this area is abundant due to significant winter rainfall, and consist primarily of grass and light sage with heavier growth at the lower elevations closer to the river. There is limited access for fire engines and other equipment due to the narrow, single-land dirt roads in that area.
The Santa Maria Air Tanker Base was immediately activated, and a total of four retardant-dropping air tankers made multiple turnarounds out of Santa Maria. Together with four water-dropping helicopters, the fire’s rate of spread was limited to just under 700 acres by day’s end.
Los Padres firefighters were assisted by Santa Barbara County Fire, Vandenberg Air Force Base, the Chumash Fire Department, and CalFire.
“Fortunately, we’d decided to staff the Santa Maria Tanker Base this Labor Day Weekend,” said Los Padres PIO Andrew Madsen. “That enabled us to get the air tankers headed out to the fire within a half hour and we were able to beat it down from the air.”
Madsen estimates the fire is now about 60% contained, thanks also to hot shots who were airlifted in late yesterday and cut line around the fire all night. Today crews are working to complete control lines, improve existing fire lines, protect values at risk, and preplan contingency operations. Temperatures in the area of the fire are expected to reach highs in the mid-90s with RH levels between 10 and 15 percent. Winds of 3 to 6 miles per hour are anticipated.
Initial reports are that the Figueroa Fire (named so because of initial reports that the blaze was never to Figueroa Mountain) was human caused. “Law enforcement personnel have been interviewing several people who they consider “persons of interest,” Madsen added. It appears that the fire may have been started accidentally.
The location of the fire is an area along the Sisquoc River just below the mouth of Horse Canyon, site of the 90,000 acres La Brea Fire just two years ago, and approximately six miles below Manzana Schoolhouse.