Local firefighters go to battle with Cave Fire

By Jake Lee Green
Kern Valley Sun

On Tuesday, November 25, at approximately 4:15 p.m., the Cave Fire erupted off of Highway 154 and Painted Cave Road on the Las Padres National Forest within the jurisdiction of the Santa Barbara Ranger District. Due to erratic winds, the fire grew quickly to 4,100 acres. Santa Barbara County announced a state of emergency at 10:30 p.m. on the evening of November 25. The fire threatens the communities of Goleta, Santa Barbara, and several unincorporated areas of the county such as Cathedral Oaks. As of Sunday, December 1, Santa Barbara County Fire Department Public Information Officers Mike Eliason and Daniel Bertucelli announced that the Cave Fire is 90 percent contained. Roadwork by CalTrans is expected to take place throughout the week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Painted Cave to San Antonio Creek roads.

Power outages had been reported in the areas of Summerland and Carpentaria and are not related to any Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS). At noon on Tuesday, November 26, prior evacuation orders had been called off for areas west of Highway 154.

Las Padres National Forest just received extra aid from Sequoia National Forest Organized Crews who will join firefighters in battling the Cave Fire. Five Type-2 Initial Attack Crews responded to the call early on Tuesday, November 26 while forest fire crews were preparing for their Thanksgiving break. Personnel consists of 20 dedicated wildland firefighters within each crew.

The forest received a call for support, according to Fire Management Officer Angela Sanchez-Hand. The call requested the availability of the Sequoia National Forest Organized Crews (OC) or the status of any available units who were able to provide support to combat the encroaching wildland fire. “At that time, the fire was estimated to be 500 acres with 50 mph sundowner winds,” explained Chief Sanchez-Hand.

In late February into early November, these seasonal crews will go into an on-call status. Robert Benik, who manages the OC program, was contacted for support by Chief Sanchez-Hand. More than 100 firefighting personnel who have answered the call have returned to duty after contact.
The crews were able to organize their equipment and resources at 6 a.m. at the Forest’s Porterville Work Center in order to depart for the Las Padres National Forest. Part of those resources include a one-ton utility bed trucks that are typically stored at the Porterville Station to be available in case of a situation such as the Cave Fire. There are multiple agencies and stations within, and without, California who have also answered the call. Helicopter 523, which is stationed at the Kern River Ranger District in Kernville, was asked to help support with aerial operations due to the advancing fire and significant threat to communities in the area. Chief Sanchez-Hand says, “The helicopter is a valued asset during a firefight and respected support to firefighters on the ground.”