Major Wildfire Swept in by Strong Winds California Causes Evacuations, Highway Closures

by Taylor Cunningham

On Monday, a massive wildfire broke out in the Alisal neighborhood in Salinas, California. By nightfall, the flames had demolished nearly 4,000 acres. And now the threat has prompted officials to close a major highway and force residents to flee.

Around 2:30 p.m. on Monday afternoon, the Alisal Fire erupted in the Santa Ynez Mountains near the Alisal Reservoir. By this morning, the fire had overtaken 3,900 acres. And firefighters have not been able to contain the spread. The resulting smoke plume can be seen from the Santa Ynez Valley and Gaviota Coast. 

According to the U.S. Forest Service, 35 mph winds and an abundance of dense, dry brush are causing the wildfire to quickly gain momentum and near more residential areas, including Santa Barbara. And those high winds are expected to stick around through this afternoon.

It was only a matter of hours before the wildfire engulfed a local roadway that stretches through California and Washington State. Because of that, the California Highway Patrol has closed access in both directions.

“US 101 is closed to thru traffic at Winchester Canyon Road to SR 1 due to a large fire in the area. Please use I-5 as an alternate route,” officials wrote on Twitter. “There is no estimated time for re-opening.”

Local authorities have also issued evacuation orders for people living in the Refugio Canyon. The areas affected are Arroyo Hondo, Tajiguas, and Arroyo Quemada. Officials also closed down the El Capitan State Park and the El Capitan Campground.

National Park Service Says It’s Illegal to Fly Drones Over Wildfires

With wildfires ravaging the state of California this summer and fall, curious minds have taken to flying drones over smoke engulfed forests and neighborhoods. And the crafts have been cluttering airspace while firefighters try to contain the ravaging flames. Because of that, the National Park Service is reminding everyone that flying drones over fires is highly illegal.

According to Park Service officials, flying over wildfires violates the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, 43 CFR 9212.1(f).

“It is illegal to resist or interfere with the efforts of firefighter(s) to extinguish a fire,” said the Park Service via InciWeb. “Doing so can result in a significant fine and/or a mandatory court appearance. So, be smart and just don’t fly your drone anywhere near a wildfire.”

People should also be aware that flying drones over state and federal parks usually requires a permit. So even if there aren’t wildfires, always check with park authorities before launching.