Alisal Fire

Assessment teams responded to the Alisal Fire burn area this week to identify hazards and make recommendations to prepare for any post-fire flooding, debris flows and landslides, Los Padres National Forest officials said.

Members of the U.S. Forest Service’s Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team are evaluating soil burn severity from the fire, which has burned 17,281 acres and was 97% contained as of Tuesday.

Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig said county officials are concerned about post-fire flooding and debris flows in Refugio Canyon.

The watershed burned by the Alisal Fire is as big or bigger than the watershed burned by the Sherpa Fire, he said, “and we do expect some of the same concerns of flooding issues in the Refugio Canyon area following this fire.”  

The 2016 Sherpa Fire burned 7,934 acres directly east of the Alisal Fire, and post-fire debris flows caused major property damage at the El Capitan Canyon camping resort in 2017, Hartwig noted.

After a deluge of 4 inches of rain in the burn area, five cabins were washed off their foundations and destroyed, and about 20 vehicles were also swept up in the debris flow.

The Alisal Fire burned along Refugio Road on the Gaviota Coast. Click to view larger The Alisal Fire burned along Refugio Road on the Gaviota Coast. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

On Jan. 9, 2018, devastating post-fire debris flows killed 23 people in Montecito.

The disaster was triggered by torrential rainfall after the December 2017 Thomas Fire scorched the mountains above Montecito, Summerland, Carpinteria, and western Ventura County.

The debris flows caused deaths and injuries, damaged and destroyed hundreds of homes, and cut wide paths of destruction that made areas of the community practically unrecognizable.

A helicopter drops water on the Alisal Fire burning in Refugio Canyon Oct. 13, 2021. Click to view larger A helicopter drops water on the Alisal Fire in Refugio Canyon Oct. 13. (Ray Ford / Noozhawk photo)

BAER and Watershed Emergency Response Team (WERT) personnel from Cal Fire were on site assessing the Alisal Fire burn area, Hartwig said Tuesday.

Public Works Director Scott McGolpin said transportation staff are concerned about post-fire storm issues on Refugio Road since that area had a lot of fire activity.

He said the county is planning flood control-related work to try to avoid road closures in the area this winter.

In Wednesday morning’s fire briefing, Los Padres National Forest officials said the weather forecast includes cooler temperatures and the chance of light showers going into the weekend.

“Expect more significant rainfall by late Sunday into Monday, which could potentially cause mud and debris flows on roads within the fire perimeter,” the briefing said.

The National Weather Service’s long-term forecast for southern Santa Barbara County expects a storm system bringing moderate to heavy rain later Sunday and Monday, with minor flooding, gusty winds and cooler conditions.

rainfall forecast from NWS Click to view larger (National Weather Service graphic)

"This storm system at the end of the weekend looks like a significant rain event will also bring gusty winds, high surf, and may cause issues at recent burn areas," the NWS Los Angeles Office wrote in a social media message Wednesday.  

Predictions of rainfall amounts will be more accurate closer to the weekend, according to the NWS, but preliminary estimates for the two-day period are 1 inch of rain for coasts and valleys south of Point Conception and up to 2 inches of rain for mountain areas.

Alisal Fire Damage and Response Costs 

The Alisal Fire has burned 17,281 acres, and the increase in acreage reported Wednesday was from better measurements, not more fire activity, according to Jennifer Gray, a Los Padres National Forest spokeswoman.

There were 1,700 people assigned to the firefighting effort at the highest point, and the number of personnel dropped below 500 as of Wednesday.

Twelve homes and one outbuilding were destroyed in the fire, Los Padres National Forest officials said Wednesday.  

Burned mailboxes on Refugio Road as seen on Oct. 13, 2021 during the Alisal Fire. Click to view larger Burned mailboxes on Refugio Road as seen on Oct. 13 during the Alisal Fire. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

The Alisal Fire caused millions of dollars worth of damage to the county’s Tajiguas Landfill facility, according to the Public Works Department.

Flames also damaged guardrails and other infrastructure along Highway 101 and burned state park and nature preserve property along the Gaviota Coast.

The firefighting effort had cost $19.5 million as of Monday night, according to Hartwig said.

Santa Barbara County declared a state of local emergency last week and received approval for federal grants that pay for 75% of response costs, Hartwig said.

The county is still urging the California governor’s office to declare a state of emergency on the county’s behalf to make more funding available, especially for repairing and rebuilding the Tajiguas Landfill’s Materials Resource Facility, Hartwig said.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Source : https://www.noozhawk.com/article/county_concerned_about_alisal_fire_storm_impacts_in_refugio_canyon

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