A fire that at one point spanned more than 750 acres in size is currently burning east of Santa Margarita, according to CalFire’s Public Information Officer Tina Rose.
The fire began last Monday around 11:30 a.m., Rose said, and quickly spread from 300 acres to more than 750 acres by the mid-afternoon. CalFire and the San Luis Obispo County Fire Department are both fighting the blaze, with the help of 14 fire engines, two helicopters and seven hand crews, as well as other resources.
More than 300 firefighting personnel were on the scene on Monday, but many more will be necessary to completely contain the vegetation fire, Rose said.
“This is going to be a few days for us to fully extinguish this fire,” Rose said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the fire was 65 percent contained and had shrunk to cover an area of only 640 acres, according to CalFire.
Investigators were on the scene of the fire as early as Monday, Rose said, but it will take more time to determine how the blaze started.
“The cause is under investigation, but that takes a while,” Rose said.
CalFire’s chief gave an evacuation order for residents in the area, covering homes on Parkhill Road between Highway 58 and Seven Oaks Road, Rose said. No structural damage or casualties had occurred as of Tuesday, and that evening, CalFire opened Parkhill Road back up to residents only.
For some area residents, such as Vince Cimo, the flames were too close for comfort, even before the evacuation order was issued.
Cimo didn’t wait for any evacuation order before leaving the area, but “beat it” shortly after he noticed the smoke, he said.
At first, Cimo said he called CalFire to find out what the source of the smoke was. He decided to leave when they explained how near the fire was to Parkhill Road, Cimo said.
“I just got as much stuff as I could and just took off, went into town,” Cimo said.
Now, Cimo is in San Luis Obispo, hoping that his home makes it through the fire — partly because he remembered he left a bag of money on the premises.
Nonetheless, Cimo is counting his blessings, he said. In the end, the only thing he could lose in the fire is property, he said.
“Could be worse,” Cimo said. “I could have gotten, like, burned to death. This is just a good reminder of, you know, how close you are to losing everything.”
Other residents in the area, though, stayed until firefighters warned them of the need to evacuate, such as Cheryl Westfall, who left her house on Parkhill Road along with her husband and four dogs.
“We just started grabbing stuff,” Westfall said. “We saw the flames right next door.”
Firefighters put up yellow tape around the neighborhood to indicate the evacuation, and officers were yelling for residents to get out as quickly as possible as they left, Westfall said.
Though this isn’t the first fire Westfall has seen living east of Santa Margarita, it is certainly the most frightening she’s seen in years, she said.
“This one seems gnarlier because it’s coming down our side (of the street),” Westfall said.
Currently Westfall, like others who live east of Santa Margarita, is just trying to plan her next move, she said.
“Hopefully, hopefully, our house doesn’t burn down,” Westfall said.