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Santa Barbara County's Alisal Fire continues to grow, with surge on western side of blaze

Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo by Mike Eliason
An air tanker drops fire retardant on the Alisal wildfire Wednesday night. High wind limited the use of air tankers to the northern edge of the fire

Fire grows by more than a thousand acress from Wednesday to Thursday, to just over 16,800 acres.

The huge Alisal wildfire in Santa Barbara County has officially burned more than 16,800 acres, growing by more than a thousand acres following a Wednesday night surge on the western front of the fire.

New evacuation orders have been added, which include Gaviota. The area is sparsely populated, but the order does affect a small public school. An evacuation warning has been issued for the Hollister Ranch area.

The blaze now covers 26 square miles.

The fire started Monday afternoon in the Santa Ynez Mountains and burned south, down to the ocean around Refugio State Beach.

It’s been expanding both to the east, and west on the Gaviota coastline. Jimmy Harris, with the Los Padres National Forest, says ongoing changes in the wind direction create new challenges. "As the wind shifts, it's the most dangerous time, and critical time of the fire, because it will change directions on us," said Harris.

Matt Ferris, with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, says high wind has limited the use of air tankers against the blaze.

"Right now, we're able to get aircraft on the upper end of the fire with retardant, but we're unable to get on the east and west ends because of turbulence and the wind's high velocity," said Ferris.

Highway 101, as well as the rail line remain closed from the west side of Goleta to Highway 1. About 100 structures are threatened by the fire, with two, an abandoned house and a mobile home destroyed.

Firefighters say Rancho del Cielo, President Reagan's former Western White House in the Santa Ynez Valley, isn't in imminent danger.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.