On my way to cover the Alamo Fire, as I crested San Marcos Pass I could see another fire plume heading skyward right in front of me. It turned out to be a bit further up Hy 154 that it first appeared but as I got to the entrance to the Whittier and Circle V camps, all hell was breaking out.
Now barely 25 minutes in progress I knew this was going to be an ugly fire. Twenty-five-foot flames were already nearing the highway and just as I parked my truck, a camp counselor roaring down the road to tell us that there were more than two dozen kids in danger up at Circle V.
Many of them were able to escape as four cars packed with kids speed past but the word was that others would be sheltering in place. One engine crew worked frantically to establish a line around the blaze near Camp Whittier, where (I was told) some sort of issue with a vehicle had started the fire. But the thick brush, steep hillsides and massive oak canopies made that impossible.
Worst, the wind began to push the fire east along a series of saddles formed by the Santa Ynez fault line. The flames roared up the west sides of each of the north-side drainages as they continued to march eastward. Then, as the fire fronts crested the saddles, dozens of blazing embers were shot out ahead to start new spots.
The good news (of sorts) was the wind was steady enough to keep the eastward flow to the point where it continued east rather than turning south and climbing up towards the SY Mountains. But that would change in the early evening just before sunset when the wind quieted down.
Almost immediately the fire activity began to shift southward and the flames headed to the mountain crest. By 8PM we’d heard that flames could be spotted over the crest near Tecolote Canyon. Not good news.
Stay tuned. It may be quiet in the early morning today but that will most likely change when the day heats up, the humidity lowers and the brush is dry enough to burn again.