Almost 1,500 firefighters struggled to contain a fire spreading on multiple fronts through the Los Padres National Forest this week.
The Day Fire so dubbed for its beginning in a forest outside of Ventura on Labor Day threatened on Sept. 12 to jump across Hwy. 5 from the largely consumed Sespe Wilderness east of Santa Barbara to the neighboring Angeles National Forest. Meanwhile, to the south, the blaze crept up on one of the largest condor sanctuaries in California and even pushed toward the remote community of Oak Flat a clearing in the Los Padres occupied by several homes and a Boy Scout camp.
Officials initially closed off Hwy. 5 to traffic in southern Santa Barbara County, but reopened one northbound and southbound lane Wednesday morning. Firefighters remain cautious of the Day Fire's potential to cross the highway.
"We're expecting some major wind events as a result of a cold front pushing in," Los Padres fire information officer Maeton Freel said.
As of publication, the fire was just 25 percent contained and had consumed more than 27,000 acres. Santa Barbara County firefighters deployed a five-engine strike team early Sept. 13 to assist in the efforts. Site supervisors reported that the rocky terrain and heavy brush fuel around the perimeter of the blaze contributed to the difficulty of effectively containing the spread. Incident reports listed the growth potential as "extreme."
While the cost of fighting the Day Fire continues to escalate toward the $10 million plateau, firefighters reported no structural damage or civilian injuries. If the fire managed to traverse Hwy. 5, it would pull within 1.5 miles of a mobile home park.