Roundup: Southern California's Alisal Fire grows, prompting new evacuations

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LOS ANGELES, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) -- A fast growing wildfire in Southern California swelled to over 16,000 acres (64.7 square km) as of Thursday morning with more evacuations ordered.

The Alisal Fire is now 16,801 acres with only 5 percent containment, said the Santa Barbara County Fire Department in its latest update.

A total of 1,306 firefighting personnel are working to contain the blaze, said the department. The wind-fanned fire has grown at a rapid rate of speed in dense chaparral and grass in the mountainous areas since it started Monday afternoon near the Alisal Reservoir, north of U.S. Highway 101 along coastal Santa Barbara County.

The overall strategy is to engage firefighters to minimize the fire size, eliminate the fire threat to Highway 101, protect residence and infrastructure, historic and cultural resource threats in the area, fire officials said on the incident information page of Inciweb, an interstate incident information system.

The Alisal Fire is reportedly within a half mile of the iconic Reagan Ranch, the former vacation home of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

Additional evacuation order and warnings were issued Wednesday night for the areas threatened by the fire as previous evacuation orders are still in effect.

Officials said that a stretch of Highway 101 near Santa Barbara remains closed in both directions due to the fire. The famous coastal highway stretches from California through Washington state on the West Coast of the United States. The railway parallel to Highway 101 is also closed and impacting Amtrak train travel in both directions.

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District have upgraded the Air Quality Watch to an Alert for the county.

"Smoke and ash from the Alisal Fire is affecting air quality, and winds in the forecast are expected to push more smoke onshore," said the agencies in the alert, noting that "this is a dynamic situation."

The Alisal Fire was referred to by The Los Angeles Times as "Southern California's first major wildfire of the season." Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors declared a local state of emergency for the fire on Tuesday.

Another devastating fire season is underway as California faces continued severe drought conditions this year. In 2021, Northern California has been ravaged by multiple massive wildfires, including the Dixie Fire, the largest currently burning in the country, which has already consumed over 963,000 acres in the past three months with 94 percent containment.

Statewide, wildfires have burned over 2,487,000 acres and destroyed or damaged more than 3,600 structures so far this year in California, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's latest updates. Enditem

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