110619 Righetti Ranch burn

Smoke from an 80-acre controlled burn Wednesday on the Righetti Ranch rises east of antennas at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The fire south of Orcutt was started to improve rangeland and reduce the risk of wildfire.

Smoke seen rising Wednesday south of Orcutt came not from a wildfire but from a prescribed burn of approximately 80 acres of sage scrub and chaparral on the Righetti Ranch.

The burning between Highway 135 and Vandenberg Air Force Base began about 8 a.m. and was done by 6 p.m., said Lyz Hoffman, public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District.

Capt. Daniel Bertucelli, public information officer for Santa Barbara County Fire Department, said the burn was conducted by the Righetti Ranch for the purposes of range improvement.

However, it was also expected to reduce the danger of uncontrolled wildfire in the area, as prescribed fires typically burn less intensely while removing the fuel that feed wildfires, Hoffman said.

She noted the prescribed burn was a follow-up to a 300-acre burn on the Righetti Ranch in November 2018.

Bertucelli said County Fire units were at the site to ensure the fire did not escape control while at the same time the department used the burn to conduct live fire training for its firefighters.

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The burn was scheduled for Wednesday because the meteorological conditions were highly favorable to direct smoke away from population centers, Hoffman said. 

It was coordinated with County Fire, Santa Barbara County APCD and the California Air Resources Board to minimize impacts on the air quality in surrounding communities, Hoffman said.

But the APCD still issued a warning to residents who smelled smoke to take precautions and use common sense to reduce any harmful health effects by limiting outdoor activities, remaining indoors as much as possible or temporarily relocating.

A portable air quality monitor was set up in Los Alamos to monitor air quality conditions, Hoffman said, and the data was posted on the APCD website at www.OurAir.org/todays-air-quality/.

Photos: Controlled burns aimed at reducing wildfires, improving safety, habitat

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