A state of emergency in Santa Barbara County was declared Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors as a result of the Alisal fire that ignited about 2:30 p.m. Monday and in 24 hours charred more than 8,000 acres above the Gaviota Coast.
Supervisors unanimously approved a proclamation and resolution with no discussion and no public comment on the issue that was added to the meeting agenda during the board’s lunch break and closed session.
Declaring an emergency will allow the county to ask the state to declare an emergency, which could then open the door to state disaster assistance funds but also federal funds.
County Fire Department has already requested assistance from the Federal Management Assistance Grant program, according to a report from Kelly Hubbard, director of the County Office of Emergency Management.
In the report, Hubbard noted the fire — which at that point was still reported at 6,000 acres and 0% contained — had shut down Highway 101, halted Amtrak service, forced the evacuation of 270 residents, prompted an evacuation warning for another 260 and threatened at least 100 structures, including homes, ranches, farms, state campgrounds and county infrastructure.
Hubbard said ash and smoke from the fire had also degraded the air quality in the South County.
The proclamation states the “the Alisal fire is causing conditions that are a threat to public health and create conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property within the county of Santa Barbara. These conditions are beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment and facilities of the combined forces of Santa Barbara County Operational Area to combat …”
It continues that “these conditions warrant and necessitate that the county proclaim the existence or threatened existence of a local emergency in order to utilize all resources necessary to respond to the damage caused by the local emergency and receive any needed funding through the California Disaster Assistance Act and any other funding both State and Federal funds that may be available.”
About 600 firefighters from Santa Barbara County, including Santa Maria and Vandenberg Space Port Base, as well as Los Padres National Forest and San Luis Obispo, Ventura and Kern counties were on the lines Tuesday.
County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig said more resources had been ordered, including aerial tankers that as of Tuesday morning had been unable to fly due to the strong, erratic winds.
“I wish I had better news, but we’re hoping for better [weather] conditions, which will help us a lot,” Hartwig told supervisors Tuesday morning, referring to an anticipated shift from offshore winds to an onshore flow. “We expect that [flow] to run up into the canyons where the fire is established.”
The U.S. Forest Service is scheduled to assume command of the firefighting effort Wednesday.