USA California Fires: More Mass Evacuations As Thomas Fire Rages On
Advancing flames pushed more Californians out of their homes as a massive wildfire continued to advance across a swathe of state’s southern portion.
As of Sunday morning, the Thomas Fire had blackened some 173,000 acres across Santa Barbara County and Ventura County, incinerating more than 750 structures and endangering another 15,000. Firefighters had only contained about 15 per cent of the sprawling inferno, which expanded overnight as Santa Ana winds persisted.
Residents of the towns of Carpinteria and Montecito were told to evacuate, with Cal Fire noting “significant growth” and predicting the flames would continue to spread, and people in the wider area threatened by the fires were urged to remain vigilant and prepare to flee.
“Now is the time to gather your family members, pets, irreplaceable and necessary items including prescriptions and documents in case you are ordered to evacuate. If you are ordered to evacuate, leave immediately,” an alert from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said. “If at any point you feel threatened, don’t wait for a mandatory order”.
Complicating peoples’ ability to get information about the fires, power and internet outages were widespread.
Power company Southern California Edison estimated that the Thomas Fire had deprived nearly 90,000 customers of power.
Strong winds have helped push fires through dry brush and impeded firefighting efforts. The National Weather Service predicted that strong Santa Ana winds would continue blowing through Monday, gusting up to 45 miles per hour.
“A combination of gusty winds and low relative humidity can contribute to extreme fire behaviour,” the service warned.
While the Thomas Fire was the most dire threat, it was one of six different fires that burned across hundreds of miles and multiple metropolitan areas in California. Hundreds of thousands of people have been pushed from their homes in the week since the blazes ignited, though some began to return as firefighters made progress against Los Angeles area conflagrations.
Threats from the three fires that had menaced Los Angeles and Los Angeles County had been largely neutralised. Two fires that burned across the county’s northern end were at 90 per cent containment after having destroyed some 130 structures, including at least 60 homes, and a blaze that consumed hundreds of acres around an affluent Los Angeles enclave was 75 per cent contained.
Another fire in San Diego County was more than half contained, having scorched around 4,100 acres and destroyed 182 structures. An update from Cal Fire said firefighters had expanded containment lines as they took advantage of more favourable weather conditions, with high winds staying away from the epicenter of the fight.