Cuesta Fire burns 2,000 acres

August 18, 2015

UPDATE 8 a.m.: The Cuesta Fire burn area stayed at 2,500 acres and is 15 percent contained. The evacuation for Santa Margarita south of the railroad tracks remains in place.

UPDATE 7:15 p.m., The Cuesta Fire has scorched 2,500 acres and is 10 percent contained. Its continues to burn about a quarter of a mile from Santa Margarita.

The fire is burning in a drought stressed area that has not burned in 30 years. Steep terrain, hot weather and moderate winds, combined with extreme drought conditions, will continue to present the possibility of spot fires in the Santa Margarita area.

Bennet Milloy, a Cal Fire public information officer, said the fire is expected to continue its spread southeast in the Santa Lucia wilderness.

Because of the active fire behavior on Tuesday, the evacuation remains in place for Santa Margarita south of the railroad tracks and the Miller Flat area.

Cuesta Fire 11

UPDATE 7 a.m.: Almost 1,000 firefighters worked through the night successfully protecting 339 threatened homes in Santa Margarita. The fire has now scorched 2,000 acres. It is 10 percent contained

There are two fires burning. The fire threatening Santa Margarita started when flames jumped the containment line Monday afternoon.

Monday evening, officials issued an evacuation order for Santa Margarita south of the railroad tracks along California 58 and the Miller Flats area. Authorities are evaluating the evacuation at a meeting Tuesday morning.

In Santa Margarita, children are set to start school on Wednesday.

UPDATE 7 p.m.: The Cuesta Fire has burned 500 acres and prompted the evacuation of the town of Santa Margarita south of the railroad tracks. Approximately 500 people in 350 homes were evacuated Monday afternoon. No structures have been damaged or destroyed.

The fire is 10 percent contained.

Firefighters near a dirt road a quarter of a mile from Santa Margarita.

Firefighters near a dirt road a quarter of a mile from Santa Margarita.

UPDATE 4 p.m.: The Cuesta Fire, which started Sunday afternoon, has scorched 300 acres on the Cuesta Grade south of Santa Margarita. It is currently 5 percent contained.

Flames from the blaze jumped over the east line and started several spot fires.In parts of Santa Margarita, the sun is partially blocked by brown clouds and the sky is raining ash. There have not been any evacuations.

Fire crews are headed to the Miller Flats area to battle the blaze from a different direction. There are currently 250 firefighters on the incident, but calls for assistance have been sent out.

Cuesta fire 5

UPDATE 11 a.m.: Fire investigators believe one vehicle likely caused the 100 acre Grade Fire south of Buellton, the Cuesta Fire and the Cholame Fire off of Highway 41 near Shandon, said Bennet Milloy, a Cal Fire public information officer.

Firefighters have made control lines to the north which should keep the fire from reaching homes in Santa Margarita. More than 250 firefighters have limited the fire to a slow spread primarily to the east and to the south.

“They are doing good work,” Milloy said. “It is a lot of steep and rugged terrain.”

UPDATE 8:30 a.m.: Firefighters from multiple agencies were briefed on the Cuesta Fire at Cuesta Park.

grade 4

UPDATE 5:30 a.m.: The Cuesta Fire has burned approximately 100 acres and remains 10 percent contained. Firefighters are asking motorists to avoid northbound Highway 101 if possible.

UPDATE 1 a.m.: The Grade Fire is 10 percent contained with approximately 150 firefighters working through the night. Two lanes are open on northbound Highway 101.

UPDATE 9 p.m.: The fires burning on the Cuesta Grade, dubbed the Cuesta Fire, have burned approximately 75 acres. Air attack is stopping for the night, though ground crews will continue to battle the blaze.

A photo of cars headed north bound on the grade and the fire beside them.

A photo of cars headed north bound on the grade and the fire beside them.

ORIGINAL: Two fires have burned about 40 acres off the Cuesta Grade near Santa Margarita. One structure is currently threatened.

Shortly after 6 p.m. on Sunday, three fires were reported off the east side of Highway 101 just south of Highway 58. Fire officials believe a Ford truck dragging a chain started the fires.

Two of the fires, the one furthest north and the center fire, have connected and are burning together, Cal Fire reported. Fire fighters are working to keep the fires west of Mt. Lowe Road.

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Thank you to all the firefighters and support staff for your efforts!

A white ford truck dragging a chain… does anyone else think it was perhaps someone leaving the Pismo Dunes area with their toy hauler and heading back to the Valley?

Not likely unless they made a side trip to the Buellton area before heading north and to the valley. Could have been a semi or a camper trailer, sorry to break it to you, you won’t be able to blame the ATVer’s and jump on the shut down the Dunes group.

Unlikely the culprit came from the Pismo dunes as the first fire was in the Buellton area.

The Buellton and the Cuesta Grade fires were right next to the 101 going North and in UPHILL conditions. This to me would rule out a dragging chain as a vehicle towing a large trailer would be at a slow speed at the summits and less likely to cause sparks.

But vehicles straining to tow large trailers might have a defective catalytic converter that might be very hot at the top of a steep grade spewing out combustible material.

Remember there were originally THREE separate fires near the north bound summit on Cuesta Grade somewhat close to each other.

Interesting that 2 of the 3 fires were on hillsides that tend to burn more rapidly and are harder to control than flat areas.

And the Cholame Fire could have been one last hurrah for an arsonist heading back to the valley.