brush fires

(Photo by Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

With the 4th of July almost at hand, firefighters on the Central and South Coasts are worried about the potential for brush fires sparked by fireworks.

Steve Swindle is with the Ventura County Fire Department. Fireworks are illegal in Ventura County, and Southern Santa Barbara County, with the exception of so called safe and sane fireworks in the City of Fillmore.

What could be the most powerful Santa Ana wind event of the year is underway in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, and that means an increased risk of brush fires in the region.

National Weather Service forecasters say we could see wind in the 50 to 70 mile an hour range in some of the mountain areas. The strongest wind is expected Monday night  into Tuesday. The potential for Santa Ana winds will remain in the forecast through the work week.

(Photo by Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire Department

It seems like it was just yesterday, but it’s been months since the flames of the 18,000 acre Whittier brush fire roared through the Santa Ynez Mountain range in Santa Barbara County.

While cooler, moister weather and even the chance of some rain later this week is easing the brush fire threat, it’s opening the door to a new danger: Flash floods and debris flows.

(U.S. Forest Service photo)

He’s a firefighter, like hundreds of firefighters from the Central and South Coasts.

But Brian Pontes doesn’t use a fire truck to get to blazes. The Santa Barbara County man is part of a rare breed of firefighters who literally drops in on brush, and forest fires in some of the most remote parts of Western America.

It’s hot, it’s sticky, and there’s concern than locally heavy showers, and thunderstorms could lead to some flash flooding on the South Coast.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for until at least 10 p.m. Wednesday for the Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo County mountains, as well as the Cuyama Valley.

There’s special concern for areas burned recently by the Alamo Fire northeast of Santa Maria, and the Whittier fire in the Santa Ynez mountains.

They weren’t big brush fires, but a pair of blazes off of a freeway in Ventura County made a mess of the Tuesday afternoon commute for tens of thousands of motorists.

The fires broke out just after 3 p.m. Tuesday next to Highway 118 near Kuehner Drive in Simi Valley. The blazes near the eastbound lanes of the freeway didn’t threaten any homes, but caused some lane closures and backed up traffic for hours.

They burned about two acres of brush, and were contained in about two hours. There’s no word yet on what triggered the fires.

Disasters can hit year round on the Central and South Coasts.

We are in earthquake country, this year’s heavy rainfall created some mudslide concerns, and now, especially this time of year, we face the threat of major brush fires. Emergency services officials work year round in coming up for plans on where should go if you need to evacuate, but Ventura County is ready to roll with its new “animal shelters in a trailer" which can provide shelter for pets.

A helicopter used to fight brush fires swoops down onto a hillside in Simi Valley, dousing it with water. Two dozen firefighters are using hand tools to create a fire break on the hillside behind the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, in Simi Valley.

But, there’s no fire. Firefighters are trying to raise awareness about the potential for big brush fires.

Two environmental groups have filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service’s plans to create a major new fire break in Santa Barbara County, claiming that the project would threaten a rare type of plant.

In the wake of recent major brush fires on the South Coast, the Forest Service announced plans to create a six mile long fire break along the crest of the Santa Ynez Mountains to try to prevent huge blazes which could threaten homes in the region.

A high pressure system is bringing our region the hottest temperatures of the week Thursday, with gusty wind on the South Coast again leading to high brush fire danger.

There is a Red Flag warning in effect for Ventura and Los Angeles County mountains, with wind gusts up to 50 miles an hour possible through midday Thursday. The wind is expected to ease Thursday afternoon, but high temperatures and low humidity mean that the warning will stay in place until Thursday evening.

A second major brush fire on Vandenberg Air Force Base has threatened some buildings, and prompted some evacuations.

What’s being called the Washington Fire has burned about 250 acres of land on the north end of the base. It started around 2 p.m. Thursday off of Washington Avenue. Despite evacuation orders for a half dozen buildings Thursday afternoon, none were reported damaged, and the forward spread of the blaze was stopped by mid-evening.

Firefighters think wind may have knocked down a power line, triggering the fire.

(SBCFD Photo)

Santa Barbara County is gearing up for high fire season. The County Fire Department, along with all other local fire agencies in the county will move into their high fire season preparedness staffing this coming Monday.

As of Monday, all burn permits for residential burning, and hazard reduction will be suspended.

We’re moving into high brush fire season on the Central and South Coasts. This week, a number of unconventional airborne firefighters, and their ground crews from throughout the country are in Ventura County training to battle major blazes which might erupt.