Whittier Fire Update: Highway 154 corridor reopened

16 hours ago

The wildfire that ignited July 8 near Lake Cachuma has burned 28 square miles as of Sunday. After a over a week of closure, the Highway 154 corridor is now reopened. Firefighting teams from around the state are working with Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara County and CalFire firefighters to fight the Whittier Fire, and say it's currently at 36 percent containment. Click here to be directed to the Whittier Fire incident page, which fire officials are constantly updating. 

UPDATE 7/16/17 at 7:10 P.M.: The Highway 154 corridor has been reopened, from Cathedral Oaks to Armour Ranch Road. See complete info for remaining evacuation order here

UPDATE 7/16/17 at 10:10 A.M.: Teams trained in damage assessment have revised the number of homes and outbuildings destroyed in the early days of the Whittier Fire, now that they are able to safely enter the areas around the fire's origin. The number of homes has increased from eight to 17, and outbuildings from 12 to 36. 

UPDATE 7/15/17 at 11:10 P.M.: Containment is now estimated at 36 percent, as the number of personnel assigned to the fire hiked to 1,924. Sundowner winds were not as strong as forecasted, and the southwest corner of the fire waned as it burned into the area cleared by last year's Sherpa Fire. 

UPDATE 7/15/17 at 8:10 A.M.: The Whittier Fire grew by roughly 7 square miles Friday night and is now 35 percent contained. Fire officials say the drop in containment - from 52 percent Friday - is due to an increase in the acreage burning; the miles of contained fire line did not change. Over 1600 firefighters are now working on battling the blaze. Approximately 2700 residents have been evacuated from the Santa Barbara front country.

UPDATE 7/14/17 at 5:50 P.M.: The Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office expanded evacuation orders for the Santa Barbara front country. These areas are currently under mandatory orders: Highway 154 from Armour Ranch Road on the west to Paradise Road on the east; Paradise Road from 154 east to the first river crossing; West Camino Cielo from the Winchester Gun Club east to Highway 154; Kinevan Road, including the Rosario Park and all of Stagecoach Road; Winchester Canyon Road; Calle Real north to West Camino Cielo from Winchester Canyon Road; Farren Road and Las Varas Canyon Road.

UPDATE 7/14/17 at 12:50 P.M.: The Red Cross opened an evacuation center at San Marcos High School, located at 4750 Hollister Avenue in Goleta. Small pets are allowed there. For larger animal evacuations, call the Animal Services Hotline at 805-681-4332. Large animals are being sent to the Earl Warren Show Grounds in Santa Barbara.

UPDATE 7/14/17 at 12 P.M.: The city of Goleta announced late Friday morning, "under the advice of Whittier Fire Incident Commanders, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s office has issued an Evacuation Order for areas in the Santa Barbara Front Country. Effective immediately the following areas are under an evacuation order: all of Winchester Canyon Road (excluding the community of Wagon Wheel) and Langlo Ranch Road, west to El Capitan Ranch Road; Calle Real north to West Camino Cielo from Winchester Canyon Road (on the east) to El Capitan Ranch Road (on the west.)  Hundreds of additional firefighters have joined the effort to extinguish the Whittier Fire.

UPDATE 7/14/17 at 10 A.M.: Here's what Friday morning's InciWeb Whittier Fire report says: "A large area on the south of Santa Ynez and Broadcast Peaks burned just after sundown [Thursday] night. This area is within a thermal belt, warmer and drier air above the cooler coastal air. Active fire behavior continued overnight until around 1:00 AM, when the fire burned down to the level of the marine later. Today, crews continued building direct lines, reinforcing dozer lines on the east and west edges of the fire and are reinforcing contingency lines if the fire crosses the primary line. Rollout on steep terrain continues to create small uphill runs on the western perimeter of the fire. The area near Santa Ynez peak which burned last night continues to be held in place by water drops and retardant. Near Goleta, ranch roads, dozer lines, and hand lines are being built and improved upon to create large buffers between homes and the fire area." 

UPDATE 7/13/17 at 8:42 A.M.: The number of personnel fighting the fire has increased to over 1,000. The size of the burning area has increased to 19 square miles, located in the backcountry of the Los Padres National Forest. 

UPDATE 7/12/17 at 10:30 P.M.: Same size and containment as Tuesday. The fire has burned  18 square miles and is holding. KCBX News will have a full report from the scene on Thursday. 

UPDATE 7/11/17 at 9:30 P.M.: The fire expanded to 18 square miles over the course of the day Tuesday. but firefighters made progress towards containment. Smoke from the Whittier Fire was visible Tuesday afternoon from Goleta and Santa Barbara, worrying residents the fire is cresting into what’s called the front country. However, officials confirm they have established a line in front of those flames and are doing a controlled vegetation burn.   

UPDATE 7/11/17 at 9:30 A.M.: Firefighters are holding the burning area at 17 square miles in size. Monday night and Tuesday morning they made good progress and the fire is now estimated at 25 percent containment.  

UPDATE 7/10/17 at 8:30 A.M.: It is now 17 square miles in size. As of Monday morning, officials say the fire is five percent contained.

UPDATE 7/9/17 at 6 P.M.: Santa Barbara County says about 20 structures were lost in the fire over weekend, on both sides of Highway 154. Highway 154 is closed from State Route 246 to Foothill Road in Santa Barbara. Use Highway 101.

UPDATE 7/9/17 at 5 P.M.: 34 firefighters are battling the Whittier Fire. The cause is unknown and under investigation. It’s called the Whittier Fire because it started near Camp Whittier, a summer camp near Lake Cachuma owned by the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara County.

UPDATE 7/8/17 at 9:41 P.M.: Santa Barbara County Fire spokesperson Dave Zaniboni says the fire now known as the Whittier Fire is burning "completely out of control" near Lake Cachuma.

According to Los Padres National Forest, the fire has burned 5600 acres as of 9:30 P.M., and was at zero percent containment as of 7:50 P.M.

About 90 children aged 7-18 and 50 staff members were forced to evacuate Circle V Ranch Camp, located near the lake, according to camp staff. As of 6:30 P.M., all campers and staff were evacuated and safe. Parents are being asked to pick up their campers.

In a statement, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul - operators of Circle V Ranch Camp - said they have made bus transportation arrangements for all campers to be returned to their point-of-origin in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, and picked up there by their parents or guardians. Campers from Santa Barbara County may be picked up at the Old Mission Santa Ines.

Evacuation centers have been set up at San Marcos High School and Santa Ynez Elementary School.

Ivan Guillory was leading a group of 25 other weekend campers from Outdoor Afro-Los Angeles before they were forced to evacuate the Cachuma Lake Recreation Area Saturday afternoon.

"We had some people at the campground who packed up as much as they could but they made them leave immediately. So a lot of our stuff is still at the campground," Guillory said.

Reginald Varnado, another camper with Outdoor Afro, said he spotted smoke from the fire, and told other campers in the group to start packing up.

"Pretty soon after that, that's when the helicopters came flying over, telling us to evacuate," Varnado said. "Loud speakers, letting us know."

The group made it safely to a Red Cross station set up at Santa Ynez Elementary School, but had to leave a lot of their gear behind, including one camper's car.

On Saturday afternoon, Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office issued an immediate evacuation for the Highway 154 corridor.

"Leave now. An evacuation warning is issued for Paradise Road and West Camino Cielo," said an email alert sent out by Santa Barbara County at 3:12 p.m. on Saturday. "Prepare to leave. If you feel threatened or have special needs leave now. Highway 154 is closed."