Firefighters Make Significant Progress In Wildfires Burning Across Southern California

Firefighters in Santa Barbara County continued mop-up operations Sunday after battling a wildfire that destroyed about 20 structures, prompting hundreds of evacuations in Goleta over the weekend during a brutal heat wave.

The Holiday fire is 80 percent contained, with full containment expected by Wednesday, said Mike Eliason, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. He said 10 homes were destroyed and three were damaged; nine other structures were destroyed.

On Sunday morning, firefighters canvassed Goleta’s hillside neighborhoods with shovels, looking for remaining hot spots. The area no longer smelled heavily of smoke.

“It’s a thankless part of the job but it’s the most necessary so it doesn’t get rekindled,” said Mike Eliason, a spokesman for the fire department. He said about 130 firefighters remained on duty.

The 100-acre Holiday fire was perhaps the most destructive of several blazes that broke out across Southern California during oppressive heat that set records all weekend. Temperatures on Sunday were expected to be slightly lower, ranging from the high 70s along the coast to the low 90s in downtown Los Angeles and triple-digit temperatures in some inland areas.

When the Holiday fire broke out after 8 p.m. Friday, the temperature in Goleta was still 100 degrees. Then the sundowner winds picked up, a scenario that over the decades has spread many of Santa Barbara County’s most destructive fires.

The fire moved so fast Friday night that some residents struggled to get out of the hillside community, and 911 lines were jammed with calls. It was burning north of Cathedral Oaks Road, west of Fairview Avenue and east to Patterson Avenue.

More than 2,500 residents were initially evacuated but most have since been allowed to return home. Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Eric Peterson commended residents for quickly evacuating.

“I’m convinced with that quickly advancing flame front, we would have had fatalities” Friday night, he said. Santa Barbara has a long history of natural disasters, particularly brush fires. But the last year has been staggering.

In December, the Thomas fire, the largest on record in California, ripped through Montecito, Carpinteria and other coastal cities, destroying more than 1,000 structures. In January, mudslides in the same area killed 21 people and destroyed more than 100 homes. The mudslides alone resulted in property damage claims of more than $421 million.

There were at least three fires in San Diego County, including the West fire, which hit the Alpine area and initially forced 2,400 to evacuate. The fire destroyed 18 structures and scorched more than 500 acres. Two firefighters were hospitalized, with one suffering heat-related injuries and another with slight burns to his face.

By Sunday morning, the fire was 81 percent contained, officials said. The temperature in Alpine reached 112 degrees Friday and 104 degrees Saturday. The forecast for Sunday was 97 degrees.

Two other fires were burning Saturday on Camp Pendleton in North County — one fire was at 1,200 acres and 30 percent contained, while another was at 560 acres and 70 percent contained, according to Marine base fire officials.

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