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Santa Barbara County fire officials report 'excellent' progress overnight, hope for full containment

August 18, 2009 | 10:28 am


Officials said they made good progress overnight on a brush fire in Santa Barbara County, which is now 75% contained.

Officials said they hope to come close to fully containing the blaze, which has burned more than 88,000 acres, later today.

"Excellent progress was made last night in the Cottonwood Canyon area of the fire. Hot Shot crews were utilized to directly attack the fire at its edge," according to a statement by the Los Padres National Forest. "90% of the line that was to be built from the Sierra Madre Ridge to the bottom of the Schoolhouse drainage is now in place. Today firefighters will continue to complete that line, which is a major component of the current containment strategy."

A second blaze in Santa Cruz County is 65% contained. In the Lockheed blaze, fire crews are having success cutting fire breaks and beating back flames amid cooler temperatures and a drop in the winds, authorities said.

"They're making good progress," said Nadim Yehia of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

If weather conditions remain favorable, he said, fire crews are expected to have full containment within several days.

More than 2,100 firefighters and 14 water-dropping helicopters are trying to control the fire that has burned thick redwood groves near the Santa Cruz County town of Swanton. The blaze, which started Wednesday, has consumed 7,017 acres.

The cause of the fire was under investigation, authorities said.

In Santa Barbara County, meanwhile, 2,078 firefighters are battling the fire that has scorched thousands of acres of fast-burning chaparral, grass and timber in rugged terrain in Los Padres Forest near Santa Maria. The ground crews are being aided by 59 helicopters and 12 fixed-wing aircraft, the U.S. Forest Service said.

Authorities say the blaze, which has been burning since Aug. 8, was started by a cooking fire at a camp operated by a Mexican criminal organization that grows marijuana in the forest.

-- Robert J. Lopez

Photo: An air tanker makes a water drop on the Santa Barbara County fire. Credit: Bill Loucks / U.S. Forest Service