Hiking During the Lizard's Mouth Fire
By Robert Bernstein
I had visitors on Tuesday and I took them to Lizard's Mouth for an easy outing. One is a friend Virginia in San Francisco and the other is her friend Connie visiting from Singapore. Virginia does not like appearing publicly in photos, but here are some photos of our little outing.
We entered what I call the "back way" from the furthest end from the Winchester Gun Club. We then made our way toward the nose of the lizard. It was very windy up there, but we sat down for a bit to enjoy the view and snack on Mandarin oranges.
As I looked to the east from where we started I saw smoke rising from behind the big cave. It was 6:48PM and I took this photo.
I thought maybe some kids had just set off a smoke bomb. So I moved around for a better view. Then I saw a bit of a flame. I called 911 to report a wildfire. Unfortunately, the 911 dispatcher was in another city and had no idea what I was talking about. I told them to Google the Winchester Gun Club and estimated it is about a quarter of a mile back on the road from there. And a few hundred feet toward the ocean from the road.
It took a few rounds on the phone to talk to someone who understood what I was describing and he assured us that help was on the way. He warned us to take care not to get trapped. But the wind was blowing steadily away from the road so it was unlikely we would have a problem. I told the dispatcher that we would go to the closest access point on the road and wait for the firefighters.
After awhile, the first group of firefighters came out along West Camino Cielo and I showed them the closest access point. They were from the San Marcos Pass Volunteer Fire Department. They said they are based at the Trout Club. At 7:22PM I got this video of the first firefighter entering the area.
What mystified me is how a fire could have started in this area. It is nowhere near the actual mouth of the lizard that most people go to. And it was below the rocky ridge where most people would walk. Here is my video of the first firefighters working out strategy and discussing whether a helicopter should be called in.
This firefighter warned us to be careful as the flames started to kick up.
And at the end of this clip you can see some of those flames.
Eventually, Santa Barbara County Fire showed up and they started using water hoses on the fire and they started cutting brush with a chain saw to move fuel away from the fire.
You may recognize Santa Barbara County Fire Public Information Officer Mike Eliason who was on the scene to document what was happening.
Many more firefighters streamed in at this point.
Their efforts seemed to be successful in stopping the fire. The helicopter request was canceled. Mike Eliason explained that the firefighters would be there all night making sure it was completely out. Here was the scene on West Camino Cielo as we headed out.
It was 8:18PM when I made that video and we headed out as others came in to watch what was happening.