McMurray Fire burning near Buellton causes lane closures, evacuations

Evacs downgraded to warnings, northbound reopened

McMurray Fire burning near Buellton causes lane closures evacuations

BUELLTON, Calif. - On the other side of weekend red flag conditions, the McMurray fire scorched about 200 acres so far.

On Monday night, fire officials said the blaze just north of Buellton was 20 percent contained but updates on the overnight operation, containment percentage, and acreage would be released after the 7:00 a.m. Tuesday briefing. After the briefing, the fire had held at 200 acres, but containment had grown to 30 percent.

The wind didn't do fire crews any favors on Monday but Captain Daniel Bertucelli says it was very typical for the area. It was pushing the fire from the highway to the east toward the Ballard Canyon area.

"This is our first significant wildland fire this season in Santa Barbara County," said Santa Barbara County Fire Department Public Information Officer, Captain Daniel Bertucelli.

One lane of Highway 101 Northbound between the 246 and 154 reopened at 6:30 p.m. and evacuations were lifted around 8:00 p.m.

"There are pockets of unburned fuel in the area so what we're doing is lining the perimeter of all three of those fires and it's going to burn itself out in the interior," said Capt. Bertucelli. 

When crews first arrived on scene, just after 3:00 p.m., they found five to 10 acres burning quickly and a 2nd alarm vegetation response was called for immediately.

"Initial resources that arrived on scene were stating that there were multiple fires burning along the 101 northbound just north of Buellton. They counted three to four different spot fires. As of now, those fires have burned into one fire," said Capt. Bertucelli. 

With the help of Strike Teams from San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties, it was all hands on deck for Santa Barbara County Firefighters. battling the blaze from the air and ground with some 600 personnel including three helicopters, 6 air tankers, and 7 hand crews.

"We know on the other side of these hills, We have significant home populations, a significant population of people and we wanted to ensure that we had plenty of resources to knock this fire down as quickly as possible," said Capt. Bertucelli. 

With a portion of Highway 101 Northbound shut down and evacuations issued, C-1 Ranch employees had to act fast.

"When I got to the ranch and I saw all the smoke going around and the flames, I'm like, holy cow," said Cervantes, a C-1 Ranch employee.

Speaking of cows, Adrian Cervantes says he and his fellow ranch hands had to corral some 60 animals.

"It was a little bit difficult with all the cows, they were scared of the helicopters flying around," said Cervantes. 

Cervantes says it wasn't easy but they tried their best, a sentiment likely shared by first responders too. 

"All those resources will be working through the night to ensure that this fire does not break any containment lines and they'll continue to put hose lays in and extinguish any fires they come across," said Capt. Bertucelli. 

(Initial Story)

Firefighters responded to a report of a vegetation fire burning near Buellton Monday afternoon.

Four separate fires were reported on a ridge off of Highway 101 at around 3:15 p.m. The fast-moving fire was located north of Buellton at McMurray Road. 

As of 7:45 p.m., The fire had grown to about 200 acres. Evacuations were lifted at 8 p.m., according to Santa Barbara County Fire. 

The Mcmurray Fire received a second alarm vegetation fire response from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. Firefighters quickly arrived on scene and additional resources, including tankers and aircraft, were called in to assist. 

A strike team from San Luis Obispo County was called into assist. Three helicopters and four tankers are on scene, but an additional, larger tanker was requested. 

By 4:40 p.m., the fire had burned roughly 150 acres. The fire had the potential to burn 700 acres, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. 

At 6:30 p.m., the fire had burned 200 acres. Fire crews planned to remain on scene overnight. 

Structures were threatened and evacuation orders were issued in some areas near the fire.

Road Closures

Northbound lanes of Highway 101 were closed between Highway 246 and the Highway 154 junction. As of 3:45 p.m., a complete highway closure was not issued. A single northbound lane of Highway 101 was reopened at around 6:30 p.m.

Highway 1 was the advised detour route for anyone attempting to travel north towards Santa Maria and Lompoc during the Highway 101 closure. A fire broke out at the Highway 1 and Highway 101 interchange around 5:30 p.m., causing northbound lanes to be shut down on Highway 1. 

Highway 246 was then made the suggested alternative route for both fires. 

Drivers were advised to have their vehicles fueled up and take extra caution while driving in the area.

Power Outages

Over 11,000 Pacific Gas & Electric customers were without power during the fire. According to the PG&E online outage map, the majority of the Santa Ynez Valley was affected by the outages. 

It is unclear at this time if the outages were directly related to the fire.

For the latest on the outages near Lompoc and the Santa Ynez Valley, visit the PG&E outage map


Mandatory evacuations were issued for areas near the fire at around 4:50 p.m.

The areas under evacuation are the areas east of Highway 101, North of Croft Lane/Ballard Road, West of Ballard Canyon Road, South of Highway 154.

Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management said the ranch areas northeast of Buellton were under mandatory evacuations. 

By 6:30 p.m., the evacuation orders were downgraded to warnings.

Structures are threatened according to fire officials. 

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