WeatherFire Watch


As temperatures rise, firefighters respond to increased number of fires

Posted at 6:02 PM, May 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-27 22:24:35-04

More vegetation fires have popped up in the past couple of weeks in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, and firefighters say they're ready and are expecting more.

One of the latest fires broke out at Cal Poly at around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The fire got within feet of the Cerro Vista apartment building on campus.

"Obviously, it's scary when it's close by but it's been hot recently," said Teagan Pado who lives nearby.

With the warmer months approaching, we're seeing more and more vegetation fires.

"Within the last 10 to 14 days we've seen a significant increase in fire activity throughout the entire county," said Clint Bullard, CAL FIRE SLO Public Information Officer.

The fire at Cal Poly burned one acre.

"Got to see the plane overhead and drop the fire retardant," Pado said.

"We've been able to jump on them very quickly regardless of where they're at," Bullard said.

One of the other recent fires was near highways 101 and 46 in Paso Robles. It charred just a quarter acre. Another one in San Miguel along North River and Indian Valley roads was the same size.

Besides temperature playing a role in the uptick of fires in SLO and Santa Barbara counties, where the fire is burning matters too.

"Now those grasses that we saw a couple months ago that were green and lush are now brown and dry," said Captain Daniel Bertucelli of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. "It's susceptible to fire spread."

Over the past week, Santa Barbara County Fire has had nine vegetation fires. We're told the majority of them have started along the road.

The largest fire of the year, so far, was just a couple of weeks ago; 156 acres were burned inside Gaviota State Park next to the Hollister Ranch Community.

Back in San Luis Obispo County, CAL FIRE SLO says there have been 15 vegetation fires so far this year compared to 20 the year before.

"So far, the weather has been on our side when it comes to combating the fires," Bullard explained. "We have not had significant winds that serve to increase the velocity of the fire or the spread of the fire."

"After the fire department went by it seemed to die down pretty quickly," Pado added.

With defensible space inspectors still checking for compliance throughout the counties, it's an important reminder to be cautious.

"We're ready. It's time," Bullard said.

The cause of the fire at Cal Poly is under investigation.