By Raiza Giorgi

Photo by SBC Fire Captain David Zaniboni

Stephanie Mathis flew up Highway 1 to her family’s ranch in Gaviota, and there was only one police officer and one fire truck rolling up when she heard there was a fire. Within five minutes the Cruces Fire that started around 11:45 a.m. this morning was racing up towards her house on the 7200 block of Highway 1.

“I owe everything to the pilots of those air tankers and helicopters that were dropping water and fire retardant. If they hadn’t responded so quick I don’t think I would have a home right now,” Mathis said.

The cattle rancher was moving her bulls from the pasture that caught on fire to another pasture, as her husband Jeff was on the other side of the ranch with fire crews.

The Mathis operate the 14,000 acre cattle ranch that belonged to their late relative Louise Hanson. She collected various historic parcels in Gaviota throughout the last half of the 20th century in which she left in an Agricultural Conservation Easement, to continue the legacy of cattle ranching and wide open spaces along the Central Coast. Hanson passed away in January of 2014 at the age of 99.

Fire crews are stationed to assist in fighting the Cruces Fire in Gaviota.
Photo by Daniel Dreifuss

Santa Barbara County Fire Captain David Zaniboni said as of 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday, the Cruces Fire had burned roughly 170 acres and was estimated at 20 percent containment. No structures burned and the fire is burning in medium to heavy fuel. Crews will remain in the area overnight and throughout the duration of the fire, as well as clean up hotspots.