Jesusita Fire Latest, Saturday, May 9, 2009, 6 p.m.

Thousands of South Coast residents who were evacuated because of the Jesusita Fire have been returning to their homes today. During the late morning hours, mandatory evacuations were lifted for areas below Foothill Road, also known as Highway 192. Announced on Saturday evening, evacuation orders for the Montecito area are being downgraded. Residents living below Highway 192, or Stanwood Drive can now return to their homes.

Fire crews have secured the southern perimeter of the fire, but continue to fight active burning around Highway 154, and areas on the western and eastern fronts of the Jesusita Fire. At the 5 p.m. press conference, the fire was described as “laying down,” meaning it is either smoldering or only 4-feet high – enabling firefighters to get close and knock it down. People may see flare-ups, but the fire is not making any significant progress.

Cooler weather, decreased winds, and a moist marine layer have helped calm the fire’s intensity. Authorities do not expect sundowner winds tonight; they are hoping for another day of favorable weather conditions on Sunday. … They are also decided whether or not to ignite controlled burns ahead of the fire on the northern perimeter, below Camino Cielo. Crews continue to build a fire break along the northern edge of the fire.

Law enforcement officers continue to staff road blocks and patrol evacuated areas. Highway 154 (San Marcos Pass) is closed at Calle Real; Foothill Road is closed. People returning to their homes cannot use Foothill Road, or Highway 192. Evacuation warnings remain for all previously evacuated neighborhoods until further notice.

The Jesusita Fire is 30 percent contained – total containment is expected on Wednesday, May 13. A larger containment figure is expected at the Sunday morning press conference, at 8 a.m. Some firefighters, especially those from far-away jurisdictions, are being released from duty. Fire authorities are evaluating the fire’s behavior and trying to decide when the remaining evacuees can return home.

Finally, fire investigators are asking for information related to how the Jesusita Fire may have started. Please call the tip line at (805) 686-5074 if you have any information about activities on or near the Jesusita Trail or the Tunnel Trail in the San Roque Road and Tunnel Road areas on Monday, May 4 and Tuesday, May 5, 2009. This area is also known locally as “Inspiration Point.” Information can also be emailed to sbctip@sbcfire.com.

Press Release Language:

Jesusita Fire Press Release as of May 9, 2009 at 1355 (1355 P.M.)

JESUSITA FIRE EVACUATION UPDATE

THE UNIFIED COMMAND TEAM HAS DEVELOPED A PLAN FOR THE SAFE, STRUCTURED RETURN OF RESIDENTS TO THEIR HOMES AND BUSINESSES. THE CURRENT MANDATORY EVACUATION ORDER HAS BEEN DOWNGRADED TO AN EVACUATION WARNING FOR THE FOLLOWING AREAS:

EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY – ALL RESIDENCES WITHIN THE FOLLOWING AREA: GARDEN AND MICHELTORENA, MICHELTORENA EAST, EXTENDING TO ALAMEDA PADRE SERRA (APS), ALAMEDA PADRE SERRA TO SYCAMORE CANYON ROAD, SYCAMORE CANYON ROAD (HWY 144) TO STANWOOD DRIVE (HWY 192), STANWOOD DRIVE (HWY 192) TO FOOTHILL ROAD (HWY 192), FOOTHILL ROAD (HWY 192) TO MISSION CANYON ROAD, MISSION CANYON ROAD TO LOS OLIVOS, LOS OLIVOS TO GARDEN STREET, GARDEN STREET SOUTH TO MICHELTORENA.

RESIDENTS OF THE ABOVE LOCATIONS MAY RETURN TO THEIR HOMES AND BUSINESSES. PLEASE REMEMBER THAT AN EVACUATION WARNING STILLS EXISTS IN THE AREA. RETURNING RESIDENTS AND BUSINESS OWNERS ARE CAUTIONED TO REMAIN AWARE OF THE POTENTIAL FOR AN EVACUATION ORDER ON SHORT NOTICE.

FOOTHILL ROAD (HWY 192) REMAINS CLOSED EXCEPT FOR EMERGENCY VEHICLE TRAFFIC ONLY.

AS A RESULT OF THIS REVISION, ALL AREAS SOUTH OF FOOTHILL ROAD/STANWOOD/HWY 192 ARE NOW WITHIN AN EVACUATION WARNING AREA.

ALL OTHER EXISTING MANDATORY EVACUATION ORDERS AND EVACUATION WARNINGS REMAIN IN EFFECT.

THE UNIFIED COMMAND IS CONSTANTLY EVALUATING THE SITUATION TO REPOPULATE AFFECTED AREAS.

Jesusita Fire Press Release as of May 9, 2009 at 17:15 (1715 P.M.)

JESUSITA FIRE EVACUATION UPDATE

FOR CLARIFICATION PURPOSES:

FOOTHILL ROAD (HWY 192) REMAINS CLOSED EXCEPT FOR EMERGENCY VEHICLE TRAFFIC. RESIDENTS RESIDING SOUTH OF FOOTHILL ROAD (HWY 192) WILL NEED TO UTILIZE ALTERNATIVE ROUTES TO RETURN.

AREAS SOUTH OF FOOTHILL ROAD/STANWOOD/HWY 192 ARE NOW WITHIN AN EVACUATION WARNING AREA.

ALL OTHER EXISTING MANDATORY EVACUATION ORDERS AND EVACUATION WARNINGS REMAIN IN EFFECT.

THE UNIFIED COMMAND IS CONSTANTLY EVALUATING THE SITUATION TO REPOPULATE AFFECTED AREAS.

Jesusita Fire Press Release as of May 9, 2009 at 1700 (17:00 P.M.)

Fire Investigators assigned to the Jesusita Incident are requesting information about activities on or near the Jesusita or Tunnel hiking trails in the San Roque Road and Tunnel Road areas on Monday, May 4 and Tuesday, May 5, 2009. This area is also known locally as “Inspiration Point”. The information will be reviewed by investigators via phone at 805-686-5074 or email at sbctip@sbcfire.com.