Crews fighting the Alisal fire Thursday night helped raised the level of containment to 41%, although the fire that has scorched 16,901 acres has destroyed three residences and threatened more than 400 buildings, according to Santa Barbara County Fire Department officials.
Aided by the Pacific Ocean, thinned vegetation from previous fires and firefighting aircraft, crews have held the fire that broke out in the Santa Ynez Mountains along the northern and southern borders.
The fire has "pretty much" burned out along the eastern edge but is now spreading on the western edge through the Gaviota area, said Chris Childers, a County Fire battalion chief, who added he expects full containment in the next few days.
Crews used the ocean and Highway 101 as control lines for the fire.
"The great Pacific fuel break helped like it always does," Childers said. "It won't burn."
A section of Highway 101 that closed on Monday due to the Alisal fire, but has since reopened on Thursday, forced motorists to take alternate routes, increasing congested traffic along Highway 154 and prompting California Highway Patrol officials to issue safety warnings to drivers on Thursday.
The fire was reported shortly after 2 p.m. Monday in an area between West Camino Cielo and Refugio Road, near the Alisal Reservoir, spreading over the ridge toward the ocean and through an area unburned since the Refugio fire in 1955.
Gusty sundowner winds pushed the fire south while it diminished on the east side after reaching younger vegetation in the 2016 Sherpa fire burn scar, according to Childers.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
The fire forced the closure of a 24-mile stretch of Highway 101, from Highway 1 to Winchester Canyon/Cathedral Oaks roads, and the parallel railroad track on Monday, although officials reopened them to traffic Thursday evening.
County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig on Wednesday confirmed damage to the Tajiguas landfill. On Friday, three residences were found to be destroyed, along with two outbuildings. The fire has threatened 439 structures, said County Fire spokesman Capt. Mike Eliason.
The firefighting response has included numerous firefighting aircraft and several agencies, including the federal government, which took over management of the fire on Wednesday.
More than 1,731 personnel from Cal Fire, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Kern and Ventura counties, Santa Maria, Lompoc, Montecito, Carpinteria, Vandenberg Space Force Base and the U.S. Forest Service have been battling the blaze, Eliason said.
Additionally, at least five fixed-wing tankers and six water-dropping helicopters have been assigned to the fire, Eliason added.
Evacuation orders are still in effect and include the area west of Arroyo Hondo to the intersection of highways 101 and 1, Arroyo Hondo Canyon, Refugio Canyon and the area between El Capitan Beach State Park and West Camino Cielo.
An evacuation order for residences along Arroyo Quemada Lane was lifted shortly before 6 p.m.
Other evacuation warnings still in effect include the areas west of Highway 101, Gaviota Beach and Hollister Ranch, while the warning for east of El Capitan Beach State Park, west of Dos Pueblos Canyon Road and south of West Camino Cielo was lifted shortly before 6 p.m. Friday.
As of Friday, U.S. Forest Service officials issued multiple trail and campground closures where the Los Padres National Forest meets McCoy Canyon. For more information, visit https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7862/.
Public Health Department and Air Pollution Control District officials on Friday downgraded an air quality alert to an air quality watch for the county, including the Channel Islands, due to lingering smoke and ash.
An emergency evacuation center was established at Dos Pueblos High School, said County Office of Emergency Management Director Kelly Hubbard. Evacuees needing assistance can contact the American Red Cross at 833-583-3111.
The Earl Warren Showgrounds has been established as an evacuation center for large animals, and County Animal Services is accepting small animals at 5473 Overpass Road in Goleta. For small animal evacuation assistance, call 805-681-4332.
Updated incident information about the fire, including evacuation maps and road closure updates, is available at readysbc.org.