A stretch of the 101 Freeway north of Santa Barbara remains closed Wednesday as hundreds of firefighters work to gain control of the growing Alisal Fire.
The size of the blaze increased from 13,400 acres Tuesday night to 15,442 acres Wednesday afternoon, or about 24 square miles, with just 5% containment, according to Capt. Matt Ferris with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
More than 1,300 firefighting personnel were on scene battling the blaze — twice to amount assigned to the blaze Tuesday — with more crews on the way from across the state.
The flames were most active in the Gaviota area on its western flank, and around El Capitan Canyon on its eastern flank, said county fire Capt. Daniel Bertucelli.
The fire has damaged three outbuildings in Refugio Canyon and an abandoned house along the coast, but so far inhabited homes have been saved, Bertucelli said.
Officials are hoping favorable weather conditions Wednesday will assist in their efforts, allowing aircrafts to join in the firefight as flames burn through tall chaparral and grass.
“Right now we’re able to get aircraft on the upper end of the fire with retardant,” Ferris said in an afternoon briefing. “We’re unable to drop down the sides, east and west, because of the turbulence in the high wind velocity.”
The 101 Freeway remains closed from Winchester Canyon Road to State Route-1, while fire crews use it as a man-made fire break.
There was no estimated time for the freeway to reopen, but crews’ main goal to allow travel to resume along the coast, Bertucelli said.
“That is a number one priority for the fire right now is to get [the freeway and railway] reopened,” he said. “We do understand the commerce and transportation of products along that area is very important.”
Thousands of people have been asked to evacuate the area as the fire continues to threaten structures.
Evacuation orders remain in place for Refugio Canyon, Arroyo Hondo Canyon, and the area between El Capitan Beach State Park and West Camino Cielo.
Evacuation warnings are in place for the area east of El Capitan Beach State Park, west of Dos Pueblos Canyon Road, and south of West Camino Cielo.
Residents east of Calle Mariposa Reina, west of Arroyo Hondo, and south of W Camino Cielo were also warned to be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice.
An evacuation center was set up at Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, at 7266 Alameda Ave. Livestock could be taken to the Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara. Animal owners who need assistance can call 805-681-4332.
The Alisal Fire broke out about 2:15 p.m. Monday, 20 miles northwest of Santa Barbara within Refugio Canyon.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.