Alisal Fire – 10/12/2021

We are covering the Alisal Fire in Santa Barbara County. If this is your first visit to our site, please check out the About The Lookout page. This site provides wildfire intelligence and commentary. We are not affiliated with any organized fire department — this is unofficial information collated from public data sources. If you find our work helpful, please consider making a donation via the PayPal link.

The Alisal Fire was active all day, making a major run in the afternoon. The map below shows where the fire was at 4am on October 12.


October 12 spread is captured in this timelapse video.


5pm mapping (10/12/2021) shows the fire (red outline) has pushed east into the Exxon Mobil and POPCO Facilities in Las Flores Canyon.


Blue areas in the map below burned in the 2016 Sherpa Fire and purple areas burned in 2017. The yellow lines are bulldozer firelines from the Sherpa Fire and white lines are bulldozer lines from the Whittier Fire.


Looking west over El Capitan. The yellow lines are bulldozer firelines from the Sherpa Fire and white lines are bulldozer lines from the Whittier Fire.


View north over fire toward Reagan Rancho del Cielo. We’re crossing our fingers…

While the fire burned rapidly through areas of five-year-old brush in the Sherpa Fire this afternoon, fire spread may not be as radical in the 2016 burn once the winds shift. However, there is quite a bit of variety in the wind forecasts, and major wind changes are problematic after fires have made major runs, as what was the slower-moving flank of a fire can become the head. For example, if we get strong southwest winds, the area on the upper side of the fire will be aligned with slope and wind to make a major push uphill. Another example is on the west side of the fire — if we get east winds, there will be a wide flank of the fire which can run to the west.

Looking northeast over Gaviota. There are not many good opportunities for fireline construction on the west side of the fire. Southwest winds could push the fire uphill while east winds could drive the large western flank farther west.

The current weather forecast has a lot of uncertainty about what the winds will do in the coming two days. Just about any wind from any direction will pose a challenge for the firefighters on one flank or another. One bit of good news is that humidity will rise Wednesday night.

Here is a larger map showing more fire history.

The 1955 Refugio Fire (dark pink with yellow outline) burned 80,000 acres from Gaviota to Goleta. So far, much of the Alisal Fire (red) has burned areas that have not been burned since then. However, the west edge is hitting areas burned in the 2004 Gaviota Fire (light blue), and east edge is into 2016 Sherpa Fire (light blue outline).