Fires

Whittier Fire destroys Outdoor School, Boy Scouts camp along Highway 154

Rancho Alegre Outdoor School buildings burn Saturday as the Whittier Fire rages along the Highway 154 corridor.
Rancho Alegre Outdoor School buildings burn Saturday as the Whittier Fire rages along the Highway 154 corridor. Noozhawk.com

The Outdoor School at Rancho Alegre was mostly destroyed by the Whittier Fire on Saturday, which burned along the Highway 154 corridor and caused mass evacuations of campers and residents.

Most of the Rancho Alegre buildings reportedly burned to the ground, except for the main dining room.

The site is the home of the Boy Scouts of America, Los Padres Council, and this year marks the ​52nd year that the scouts have been camping at Rancho Alegre.

Summer camp was scheduled to start Monday but has been canceled, Los Padres Council leaders said.

“We are in the process of notifying those planning to attend this camp and are helping make alternative arrangements,” said Carlos Cortez, scout executive for the Los Padres Council, in a statement Sunday morning.

“We are thankful that no youth members, adult volunteers or staff were harmed,” he said.

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A U.S. Forest Service firefighter surveys flames as the Whittier Fire burns along Highway 154 near Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara County on Saturday, July 8, 2017.

“While we are still assessing the effects on the property, we greatly appreciate our first responders for keeping our community safe.”

Rancho Alegre, at 2680 Highway 154, had fewer than 10 people on the property at the start of the fire, which consisted of permanent year-round staff and three youth camp staff members.

They were evacuated to the Santa Barbara Scout Office where one of the parents picked them up and took them to their homes in Nipomo, Arroyo Grande and Morro Bay, according to the group’s website.

The Whittier Fire erupted about 1:40 p.m. Saturday near Camp Whittier, at 2400 Highway 154, and may have been sparked by a car fire, according to the California Highway Patrol.

As of Sunday morning, the fire had burned 7,800 acres near Lake Cachuma in the Santa Ynez Valley and prompted evacuations along the Highway 154 corridor, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. Containment was estimated at 5 percent.

Cortez planned to head to Rancho Alegre later Sunday to try to assess the damage.

“To the best of our knowledge, we have lost 90 percent of our structures,” Cortez said.

As of Sunday, the Los Padres Forest Service reported 20 structures had been destroyed and 150 were threatened by the Whittier Fire.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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