Update: Sherpa Fire almost completely contained

Jun 15, 2016

UPDATE: Thursday, June 23, 2016 at 5:23 p.m.

Completed fire lines now surround 93-percent of Santa Barbara County's Sherpa Fire, which started on Wednesday afternoon, June 15th.  The estimated number of acres burned has been reduced to 7,474, due to more accurate mapping of containment lines, according to the Unified Command Center.

The remaining uncontained areas of the fire are in the northeast portion, where the terrain is too steep and dangerous for fire crews to work, according to Unified Command, but there is no fire activity in that section. Crews continue to search for and extinguish hot spots near the fire's edge.

A cool and humid on-shore weather pattern helped firefighters gain control over the Sherpa Fire over the last three days, but on Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for Santa Barbara County from 3:19 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., due to gusty winds and low humidity.

On Thursday, a total of 1,090 personnel were still assigned to the Sherpa Fire, but by early Friday morning, suppression and mop-up duties will transition to a local incident management team.

Evacuation orders have been lifted for the majority of the fire area, with the following exceptions:

El Capitan Canyon will remain closed with a tentative reopening of June 25.

Refugio Canyon north of the 1800 block will remain under mandatory evacuation, with a tentative reopening of June 25. The road south of the 1800 block, known as The Narrows, has been reduced to a "warning" area, and will be closed to non-fire traffic from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and  6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Refugio State Beach will reopen to the public on June 25.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

UPDATE: Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 2:33 p.m.

Fire crews battling Santa Barbara County's Sherpa Fire are holding the week-old blaze at 7,969 acres. Full containment is expected on Thursday and was at 89 percent Wednesday afternoon.

A cool, on-shore weather pattern with humid conditions and light winds has helped firefighters gain further control of the fire. The remaining uncontained firelines are in the northeast portion, in steep and rugged terrain.

Helicopters shuttled four Hotshot crews to the uncontained area, and three more helicopters are available to drop water to support the crews.

Evacuation orders for the majority of the fire area have been lifted, but El Capitan Canyon will remain closed, with a tentative reopening of June 25.

Refugio Canyon north of the 1800 block will remain under mandatory evacuation. The road south of the 1800 block, known as The Narrows, has been reduced to a "warning" area, and will be closed to non-fire traffic from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and  6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Refugio State Beach will reopen to the public on June 25.

El Capitan State Beach will remain closed at least until July 15.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

UPDATE: Tuesday, June 21, 2016 at 12:57 p.m.

Fire crews battling Santa Barbara County's Sherpa Fire are holding the nearly week-old blaze at 7,969 acres. Full containment is expected on Thursday and was at 70 percent Tuesday afternoon. 

Sundowner winds have largely been responsible for spreading the fire and those conditions are expected to shift Tuesday evening, giving way to increasing onshore winds.

The Mandatory Evacuation orders that have been in place for several days are expected to be lowered to an Evacuation Warning for much of the area starting at 5:00 a.m. Wednesday, June 22.

The cause of the Sherpa Fire is still under investigation.

UPDATE: Friday, June 17, 2016 at 5:28 p.m.

The Unified Command Center for the Scherpa (Sherpa) Fire updated information for Friday evening to show the fire had grown to 5,866 acres.

Crews were busy Friday working on containment lines. The latest figure shows that effort at 20 percent.

Santa Barbara County declared an emergency on Friday in reaction to the destruction of agriculture property.

UPDATE: Friday, June 17, 2016 at 9:18 a.m.

The Scherpa Fire more than doubled in size Thursday night as strong Sundowner winds pushed it toward Highway 101 and the Gaviota Coast.

The National Forest Service said Friday morning that the fire had grown to 4,000 acres and was five percent contained.

Highway 101 was closed Thursday night before 9:00 from Highway 246 in Buellton to Winchester Canyon Road in both directions. It was reopened Friday at 4 a.m.

Southern Pacific railway was opened to traffic at 11 p.m. Thursday night. Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner and Coast Starlight routes use these tracks daily.

Crews were successfully able to protect residential property in the El Capitan Canyon and State Beach areas, according to the Forest Service. 

There are 1230 people working on controlling the wildfire that is burning through chaparral, tall grass and brush.

The gusty conditions that kicked up the fire each night since it started on Wednesday afternoon are expected to continue through the weekend, complicated by rising temperatures starting Sunday.

UPDATE: Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 9:03 p.m.

Strong Sundowner winds forced the Scherpa Fire dangerously close to Highway 101 on Thursday night, forcing the California Highway Patrol to close the route to traffic along the Gaviota Coast.

Caltrans District 5 said the roadway is closed from  Mariposa Reina to Winchester Canyon Road in both directions.

Now word on when the stretch will reopen.

Highways 154 (San Marcos Pass) and 246 can be used as a detour.

UPDATE: Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 7:19 p.m.

Strong Sundowner winds continued to be a factor for controlling Santa Barbara County's Scherpa Fire on Thursday night. Gusts of up to 40 mph were expected.

The Los Padres National Forest office told KCBX that the number of acres burned had grown to 1400 on Thursday, but containment remained at zero percent.

UPDATE: Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 11:05 a.m.

Santa Barbara County's Scherpa Fire had ballooned to 1200 acres by Thursday morning, forcing additional evacuations and a temporary closure of Highway 101.

The fire, burning in rugged chaparral and grass covered terrain near Refugio Canyon on the Gaviota Coast, started around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and quickly spread as strong Sundowner winds kicked in later that afternoon.

Fire crews said Thursday they're concerned about the weather forecast that's calling for northwest winds at 20 to 30 mph with afternoon gusts of 40 mph. The upcoming heat wave set to peak Sunday through Tuesday is also of concern.

Mandatory evacuation orders were in place Thursday morning for Refugio, Venadito and Las Flores Canyons as well as El Capitan and Refugio State Park Campgrounds. 

A shelter opened Thursday night at the Wake Center, 300 North Turnpike Road in Santa Barbara. A center for large animals was also set up at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. A second evacuation center went into effect Thursday morning at Santa Ynez Union High School, 2967 E. Highway 246 in Santa Ynez.

Highway 101 opened just before 8:00 a.m. on Thursday after being shut down overnight along the Gaviota Coast. Highway 154 (San Marcos Pass) remained open as an alternate route.

All is clear at the Live Oak Music Festival grounds, and the event is scheduled to take place as planned throughout the weekend, according to KCBX Program Director Marisa Waddell.

U.S. Forest Service, CALFIRE and several Santa Barbara County fire agencies are working on containment. The cause of the fire is under investigation according to the Forest Service.

ORIGINAL POST: 6/15/16

Mandatory evacuations were in place Wednesday evening for residents living near a fire burning in the Refugio Canyon area of Santa Barbara County's Gaviota Coast. 

"This is now a third alarm fire," said Andrew Madsen with the Los Padres National Forest regarding the Scherpa Fire, named for a nearby ranch. "We've got a full response."

The fire was being fed by strong winds and rough terrain. It was spotting 200 yards in front of itself, according to the Forest Service.

The National Weather Service said Wednesday evening that gusts of up to 38 mph were being reported in the area, with a wind advisory in effect through Thursday at 6:00 a.m.

Madsen told KCBX the fire has grown to 50 to 60 acres at of 6:00 p.m., Wednesday.

There were roughly a dozen homes threatened.