NewsLocal News


Firefighters stop spread of grass fire that snarled traffic on Highway 166

Screen Shot 2023-05-19 at 10.12.16 PM.png
Posted at 10:43 PM, May 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-20 02:53:32-04

Firefighters are closely monitoring a smoldering fire that burned dozens of acres off Highway 166.

Firefighters have stopped the spread of the grass fire which started along the highway before racing up nearby hillsides Friday afternoon.

Gusty winds fanned the flames of a roadside fire that grew to 50 acres.

The Gifford Fire broke out just east of Rock Front Ranch at about 2:30 p.m. on Friday.

“The winds were about 10 to 15 miles an hour. We got a lot of rain which means we got a lot of growth,” said Mike Gray, a spokesperson for Santa Barbara County Fire.

The fire raced through recently dried-out, tall grass.

“So, when the wind lines up with the topography up there and you get a little start like this, it can go pretty quick,” explained Gray.

Fallen oak tree branches were still burning as our reporter walked through the fire zone late Friday afternoon.

One mostly dead oak tree caught fire and continued to smolder.

Hand crews were busy building containment lines to stop the fire in its tracks.

Firefighters were stationed throughout the steep hillsides on the lookout for any flare-ups.

The fire burned through federal land on the northeast side of Highway 166 which is along the county line in San Luis Obispo County.

No damage was reported, but fire season is just beginning, and vegetation will only continue to dry out.

“It’s only gonna get worse as the summer goes on,” said Gray.

One-way traffic control was in place for hours along Highway 166, causing significant backups between New Cuyama and Santa Maria.