Officials on Thursday reopened Highway 101 and a train track that closed several days ago due to the Alisal fire, which grew to 16,801 acres and prompted a new evacuation order for the Gaviota area of the coast, where crews were still battling to keep it from crossing Highway 101.
The railroad reopened at about 4:15 p.m., while a 24-mile section of Highway 101, which runs parallel to the track, from Highway 1 to Winchester Canyon/Cathedral Oaks roads reopened at 6 p.m., according to U.S. Forest Service and California Highway Patrol officials.
The blaze remains at 5% containment, with the cause still under investigation.
"We've had some good luck with the Alisal fire in the last day and a half," Santa Barbara County Fire spokesman Chris Childers said during a briefing Thursday morning. "We have some open line between the Sherpa fire [area] and Refugio Canyon that we're going to try and work on [Thursday]; that's our first priority."
Tammy Thompson, treasurer for the equine evacuation team, said the Earl Warren Showgrounds was hosting 137 evacuated horses, sheep, goats and donkeys by Wednesday, with some coming and going as owners found new locations to house them.
The fire was reported shortly after 2 p.m. Monday near the area of West Camino Cielo and Refugio Road in the Santa Ynez Mountains, a short distance away from the Alisal Reservoir.
It moved quickly from the north side of the ridge to the south side and reached the Pacific Ocean in about three hours, according to Los Padres National Forest Fire Chief Jimmy Harris.
Sundowner winds on Wednesday pushed the fire east into Refugio Canyon and Los Flores Canyon, where an ExxonMobil oil and natural gas processing facility is located.
Additionally, winds pushed the flames partially into the western side of the Sherpa fire burn scar and along the top of the ridge, Childers said.
Personnel on Wednesday successfully secured the ridge going west to Arroyo Hondo and made progress on the fire's east side, although sundowner winds pushed the fire farther west into the Gaviota fire burn scar, he added.
Officials issued an evacuation warning Thursday for all properties within the Hollister Ranch area.
Other evacuation warnings still in effect include the area east of El Capitan Beach State Park, west of Dos Pueblos Canyon Road and south of West Camino Cielo, along with the area east of Calle Mariposa Reina, west of Arroyo Hondo and south of West Camino Cielo.
Evacuation orders in effect now include the area west of Arroyo Hondo to the intersection of highways 101 and 1, including Vista Del Mar School and Gaviota Beach, along with Arroyo Hondo Canyon, Refugio Canyon and the area between El Capitan Beach State Park and West Camino Cielo.
More than 1,300 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. Additionally, at least five fixed-wing tankers and six water-dropping helicopters have been assigned to the fire.
County Fire spokesman Capt. Mike Eliason urged residents to refrain from flying drones in the area of the Alisal fire after receiving reports of drone usage in the vicinity, stating they pose serious risks to firefighters and can impede the effectiveness of wildfire suppression operations.
California Highway Patrol officials also cautioned the public of increased traffic along alternative routes that include Highway 154 between Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley and Interstate 5.
An emergency evacuation center was established at Dos Pueblos High School, according to 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 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.