Lake Fire Nears 30,000 Acres Burned, Making It California’s Largest Wildfire This Year | Local News
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Lake Fire Nears 30,000 Acres Burned, Making It California’s Largest Wildfire This Year | Local News

The Lake Fire burned nearly 30,000 acres Wednesday, with increased activity seen on the southeastern edge of the fire in Santa Barbara County.

The Unified Command reported that 29,187 acres had burned as of Wednesday evening and that the fire was 16% contained.

Los Padres National Forest officials said the Lake Fire damaged three recreational homes and one outbuilding.

Four firefighters were injured, some seriously, according to incident commanders. No civilian injuries were reported, and no homes were damaged or destroyed in the blaze.

More than 3,000 personnel were assigned to combat, about 500 more than Tuesday. The Unified Command is opening a second base camp in Nipomo, in addition to its existing camp in Santa Maria.

Lake Fire Nears 30,000 Acres Burned, Making It California’s Largest Wildfire This Year | Local News
A sign was placed Wednesday at the Sedgewick Preserve as crews from across the country battle the lake fire. Loan: Photo by Ray Ford/Noozhawk

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said the fire affected about 1,165 people in areas under an evacuation warning and 441 people in areas under an evacuation order.

Evacuation orders and warnings are in effect for remote communities and areas of the Los Padres National Forest, including Figueroa Mountain Road and Happy Canyon.

Check Lake Fire readysbc.org for the latest evacuation information. Click here for an interactive map of affected areas.

The southeast part of the fire has been the most active in recent days, as shown by the Unified Command progress map. Wednesday’s fire areas are marked in red on the map below.

“Tactical fire operations were conducted well in advance of the fire to control the spread of the fire,” officials said Wednesday evening. “The fire operation on the southeast edge of the fire perimeter proceeded as planned by fire behavior analysts. This fire operation will prevent fire impacts to communities south of the Los Olivos fire.”

The Unified Command’s Lake Fire progress map shows recent fire activity in red as of Wednesday. Loan: Photo courtesy of

Lake Fire The largest fire in California this year

The Lake Fire is by far the largest wildfire in California this year, according to CalFire. It is also the largest fire to burn in Santa Barbara County in some time.

According to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department’s Dashboard, the average time between large wildfires (those greater than 10,000 acres) in Santa Barbara County is four years.

The Lake Fire burned through the Sedgwick Reservation in the eastern Santa Ynez Valley on Wednesday.
The Lake Fire burned through the Sedgwick Reservation in the eastern Santa Ynez Valley on Wednesday. Loan: Photo by Ray Ford/Noozhawk

Before the Lake Fire, the last major fire in Santa Barbara County was the Alisal Fire in 2021, which burned 16,953 acres from the Santa Ynez Mountains to the Gaviota Coast.

The last time a fire in Santa Barbara County burned more than 20,000 acres was in 2017; that happened twice.

The Alamo Fire on Highway 166 in July 2017 burned 22,867 acres.

That’s the same year — and month — that the Whittier Fire burned 18,291 acres, destroying several campsites along Highway 154.

In December 2017, the Thomas Fire burned 281,350 acres and led to deadly debris flows in Montecito in January 2018.

In terms of acreage, Thomas holds the top spot for most fires in Santa Barbara County, closely followed by the 2007 Zaca Fire, which burned 240,350 acres.

The fire history map shows the perimeter of the active Lake Fire in red, the 1993 Marre Fire in light gray, and the large 2007 Zaca Fire in gray.
Unified Command’s fire history map shows the active Lake Fire perimeter in red, the 1993 Marre Fire in light gray and the 2007 large Zaca Fire in gray. Loan: Photo courtesy of

However, Thomas scorched earth in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, while Zaca remained confined to Santa Barbara County.

Third place went to the Matilda Fire of September 1932, when 219,999 acres burned.

Fourth and fifth place were Wheeler #2 in July 1985 with 122,687 acres, and Kelly Canyon with 114,745 acres in September 1922.

While sunset wind-driven fires are common in southern Santa Barbara County, they did not contribute to the Zaca or Lake fires, fire officials said.

The department’s fire history dashboard shows that June, July and August see the most fires, with 56 to 58, although long-time residents know that December saw deadly blazes.

Although the fire’s footprint is smaller than many other properties on the list, one of the most destructive fires is the Paint Fire of June 1990, which burned 641 structures over 4,425 acres.

More land has been burned in California this year due to wildfires

Governor Gavin Newsom said wildfires have burned significantly more land this year than during the same period last year.

After several years of less than average burning, “this year promises to be even more challenging,” Newsom said at a news conference on wildfire preparedness and response Wednesday.

He added that heavy rains have led to the growth of a large amount of grass and other light vegetation, which contributes to the outbreak of fires.

As of Wednesday morning, 3,543 wildfires had broken out in California, burning 207,415 acres, said CalFire director Joe Tyler.

Newsom and other speakers did not mention the Lake Fire, the largest wildfire this year.

The event was broadcast live from the Sacramento County Fire Air Base, with night-time helicopters and other aircraft flying in the background.

California has the largest fleet of civilian firefighting units in the world, Newsom said, and “no mutual aid effort is as efficient, effective and coordinated.”

More than 3,000 officers were assigned to extinguish the Lake Fire on Wednesday.

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