16 July, 2017
New areas were ordered evacuated in Goleta as shifting weather conditions pushed the Whittier fire westward, pushing up a huge plume of smoke that prompted drivers to stop on Highway 101 to take photographs, leading to backed up traffic, officials said. An increase in temperature and lower humidity was expected to increase fire activity Saturday.
The increase in the size of the fire was due in part to controlled burns that were set to reduce the amount of fuel available in its path, said Mike McMillan, a Whittier fire information officer. "If they stay that way, we should make it through the night OK".
"Santa Barbara County has a fire history that is notorious for life and structure loss", County Fire Chief Eric Peterson said Friday afternoon, adding firefighters had carved out hundreds of miles of fire lines and dropped thousands of gallons of retardant.
"This area hasn't burned in 62 years", Harris said, the last time being the Refugio fire that charred the area in 1955.
A massive high-pressure system over the U.S. Southwest has caused temperatures to rise throughout California, including burn areas, officials said. The fire continues burning in the area above Goleta and crews continue to build containment and contingency lines to hold the fire in check.
Firefighters are expecting sundowner winds Friday and Saturday nights, which could push flames from the blaze down the slope toward populated areas west of Goleta. The combination of old, dry fuels with a newly cured heavy grass crop contributed to the rapid growth of the fire, officials said.
A cool-down isn't expected until Monday.
More than 1,600 personnel are now assigned to the Whittier Fire. The blaze, dubbed the Whittier Fire, started Saturday along Highway 154 and burned about 330 acres near Camp Whittier.
The cause of the Whittier fire remains under investigation.
It has destroyed eight homes and 12 outbuildings since it began on July 8, USA Today Network reported.
The fire broke out a week ago along Highway 154 and quickly grew, prompting immediate evacuations and the closure of Highway 154. Evacuation warnings remain for Tepesquet Canyon residents only.