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Fire officials eye Alisal Fire burn scar with storm on the way

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Posted at 6:23 PM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-22 00:43:33-04

With rain in the forecast, recent burn areas in California pose a danger for potential debris flows.

One of the most recent fires in the state is the Alisal Fire, which left its burn scar in Santa Barbara County.

Now, with a storm on the way, fire officials are on alert.

The Alisal Fire has burned more than 17-thousand acres along the Santa Barbara County South Coast. The burn scar includes several miles of hillside along Hwy 101.

The burn scar mixed with potential rain could create problems.

"We have seen what has happened in the area with rain after we have a vegetation fire, so we are being very careful,” Daniel Bertucelli, Public Information Officer for the Santa Barbara County Fire, said.

When rain pours down over burned areas, there isn't anything holding the soil tightly in place. Burn scars can allow rockslides, mudslides and flooding to arise.

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department is preparing by having resources on standby.

County fire officials have been notifying those who live near the fire. They have even been going door-to-door, informing people that debris flow and rock slides are possible.

A community meeting is set to discuss the storm potential. Since the fire burned so close to Hwy 101, conditions along the road raise concerns.

“You can have some dirt and debris there coming off from the hillside onto the freeway, which can cause a slick roadway," Bertucelli told KSBY. "We do ask that people who are driving near where the Alisal Fire burned to be extra vigilant and extra careful."

Firefighters aren't the only ones on standby. Over the next few days, Caltrans will be on a "storm patrol".

"We will be monitoring any potential areas where water or any material could impact the highway,” said Jim Shivers, a spokesperson for Caltrans District 5, said of the patrols.

Their maintenance and engineering teams will be on call 24-7, Shivers says.

"When you couple that rain that we are expecting with steep topographical areas, narrow canyons, residences in the area with one way in and one way out," Bertucelli said, "We just want to be extra careful."