Alisal Fire burns nearly 15,000 acres, damages landfill

Tajiguas Landfill

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

The Alisal Fire that is scorching Refugio Canyon and the Gaviota Coast more than doubled in size over the last 24 hours, and it burned part of a landfill, damaging equipment at the facility.

Between Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning, the blaze grew from 6,000 to 14,500 acres. It is 5 percent contained, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. The United States Forest Service estimates full containment will be achieved by Oct. 25.

At about 2:10 p.m. on Monday, callers reported a blaze burning near the Alisal Reservoir in the Santa Ynez Mountains. Strong northwest winds pushed the fire over a summit, causing it spread at a rapid rate in the direction of Highway 101 and the Pacific Ocean. The blaze jumped Highway 101 and spread to Tajiguas Beach. 

On Tuesday, at about 10:45 a.m., the fire reached the Tajiguas Landfill, which serves Santa Barbara County’s South Coast, as well as the Santa Ynez and New Cuyama valleys.

Areas of the landfill smoldered and burned, and a flareup occurred in the biofilter, which filters air inside the Materials Recovery Facility. The biofilter is an uncovered concrete structure filled with wood chips, some of which ignited, according to the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department.

The blaze also damaged drainage, gas collection systems and heavy equipment at the landfill. In response, Santa Barbara County has implemented a contingency plan, and Ventura County will manage waste collected in the area on a short-term emergency basis, officials said. 

President Ronald Reagan’s Rancho del Cielo

Additionally, the Alisal Fire came within several miles of President Ronald Reagan’s Rancho del Cielo in the Santa Ynez Mountains. The ranch has good defensible space, and several fire engines arrived to protect the property, fire officials said.

The blaze has threatened about 200 homes, as well as commercial buildings and key infrastructure.

Highway 101 remains closed in both directions between Highway 1 and Winchester Canyon Road. Likewise, Amtrak halted train service on Tuesday between San Luis Obispo and Goleta. 

About 1,300 fire personnel are battling the blaze. Priorities for firefighters are structure defense, perimeter control and reopening Highway 101 and the railway, officials said. 

Evacuation orders for several areas impacted by the fire remain in effect.

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