Brush Fire Heading Towards Carrizo Plain Nat’l Monument Spreads to 1,800 Acres

Crews from CAL FIRE, including two air tankers, two helicopters and one dozer, as well as fire crews from Santa Barbara County Fire and Santa Maria City Fire, are all on scene trying to contain the flames. The reports started coming out with 500 acres under threat, and it is now up to 1800 acres.”This fire is burning very actively we’re going to trying to get it picked up as soon as we can,” said Rick Todd with Santa Barbara County Fire.

Within hours the fire raced up the hillsides, blackening hundreds of acres of dry grass. Now the flames threaten the Carrizo Plain National Monument to the Northeast, “We do have a few structures dotted out through there additionally there’s some communications equipment up on top of Carrizo peak or one of the peaks there and as it moves to the east if it continues to do so we have some oil fields that will be impacted out there,” said Todd. KION News

By Sam Womack/Staff Writer | Posted: Sunday, May 16, 2010 1:00 am |

A tanker plane drops retardant Saturday on the Cotton Fire west of Cuyama Saturday. //Mark Brown/Staff
Throughout the night, fire crews have been battling a brush fire north of New Cuyama that grew to an estimated 1,500 acres Saturday.
Officials predicted that the blaze would tear through the brush overnight because of the steep terrain, but “we’ll go after it hard tomorrow morning,” Battalion Chief Bill Fisher, with San Luis Obispo County Cal Fire, said Saturday.
At 7 p.m. Saturday, the wildfire, known as the Cotton Fire, was only 15-percent contained, Fisher said.
It sparked to life Saturday just after 9:15 a.m. along Highway 166 near Cottonwood Canyon Road, about 40 miles east of Santa Maria.
It spread west and blackened about one-half mile of vegetation along the north side of Highway 166 in San Luis Obispo County.
A western wind started in at about noon Saturday and pushed the flames northeast over the hills and into the Carrizo Plain National Monument area, which is under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The protected area is home to diverse communities of wildlife and plant species, and is an area culturally important to Native Americans, according to the BLM website.
The fire continued to head east into federal land and a northwest wind was blowing from 15 to 20 mph Saturday evening, Fisher said.
It is burning in light grass and brush, but with strong winds, the fuel burns fast and presents a danger to firefighters, Fisher said.
Airplanes and helicopters dropped water and fire retardant on the flames all day Saturday and into the night, he said.
Fisher added that fire crews and bulldozers had made good headway on the flanks, or sides, of the blaze during the day, but that the front of the fire had an open lane.
Approximately 250 fire personnel were assembled to battle the blaze as of 7 p.m. Saturday and plans were in motion to set up a command center in New Cuyama, according to Michelle Puckett, a BLM fire representative.
No one was injured in the fire fight, no structures were threatened and the cause is under investigation, she said.
Farther into the preserve, there are a few oil fields and small structures in the canyons, according to fire officials.
Coincidentally, at 1 p.m. Saturday, fire crews were also sent to the Washburn Ranch in the Carrizo Plain National Monument area, near Highway 33 and Soda Lake Road.
As of 7 p.m. Saturday, the Wash Incident had burned approximately 400 acres and was 65 percent contained, according to Rod Hezlund, a BLM fire representative.
Posted in Local on Sunday, May 16, 2010 1:00 am Updated: 11:34 pm.

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