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Brush fire burns 100 acres in beleaguered Santa Barbara County

Brush fire burns 100 acres in beleaguered Santa Barbara County
A map shows the location of the Ogilvy fire in the Los Padres National Forest. (Paul Duginski)

Santa Barbara County has seen so many fires in recent years that when a new one broke out Saturday afternoon, it didn’t have much room to grow.

But that didn’t stop disaster-weary fire officials from hitting the Ogilvy fire with full force. The brush fire started around 4 p.m. Saturday near Ogilvy Ranch in the Los Padres National Forest.

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Several local, state and federal fire agencies responded to the blaze, including the Santa Barbara city and county fire departments, the Montecito Fire Department, the U.S. Forest Service, and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. By 7 p.m. Saturday, the fire had burned about 100 acres.

“There’s always concern when we’re anywhere near the urban-wildland interface,” said Andrew Madsen, a spokesman for the Los Padres National Forest. “This area has been through a lot and the sooner we can get the appropriate resources in place, the smaller we can keep it and the smaller the impact to residents.”

The pace of destruction in the region has been relentless. Late last year, the Thomas fire burned more than 281,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and destroyed more than 1,000 structures in Montecito, Carpinteria and other nearby cities. The fire scars and heavy rain triggered mudslides in January that devastated the area, killing 21 people and razing more than 100 homes. In July, another small fire destroyed homes and forced evacuations in Goleta.

Madsen said the fire started at about 50 acres just after 4:30 p.m. Saturday and three hours later had doubled in size. The burn area is hemmed in by scars from several other fires: the 2007 Zaca fire to the north, the Rey fire to the south and to the east, last year’s Thomas fire, which engulfed more than 280,000 acres — at the time, the largest in state history.

What’s left, Madsen said, is mostly quick-burning grass and small patches of vegetation — making the potential size of the Ogilvy fire much smaller.

But fire officials aren’t taking any chances.

More than 120 firefighters are estimated to be battling the small blaze, including air tankers, bulldozers and several hand crews being shuttled into the remote area by helicopter.

Justin Christensen, a Carpinteria resident, was glad to hear it.

He was out for a drive along Gibraltar Road in near Santa Barbara on Saturday afternoon when he glimpsed a column of smoke from the fire.

All the areas surrounding the smoke were blackened, he said — except the area closest to him.

“I just kind of thought, ‘Here we go again,’” Christensen said. When he heard the sound of fire engines, he decided to flee down the mountain on the narrow road.

“You kind of feel like, if they can’t stop this one, then there just isn’t much left to burn,” Christensen said. “You wonder when it’ll stop and if we can get six months through the year without something else happening.”

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