Santa Barbara, California Under Mandatory Evacuation, Wildfires Rage
Residents piled into cars and fled Saturday, turning downtown Santa Barbara into “a ghost town” as surging winds drove one of the biggest fires in California’s history toward the city and the nearby wealthy enclave of Montecito.
The mandatory evacuations around Montecito and neighboring Summerland came as winds that had eased a day earlier roared back at around 30 mph, with gusts to about 60 mph
Firefighters sprayed water onto hot spots sparked by wind-blown embers. They also drove to the historic San Ysidro Ranch in yellow fire trucks as heavy smoke rose from the coastal hills, blotting out the blue skies.
A portion of Santa Barbara was under mandatory evacuation.
- California Wildfire Rages, it is the 3rd Largest Ever in the Golden State
Saturday, a raging California wildfire became the state’s 3rd largest blaze on record, with more devastation possible from a resurgence of the harsh winds that have fueled the deadly fire’s growth.
The Thomas Fire has destroyed more than 1,000 structures, including about 750 homes, in coastal communities in Southern California since erupting on 4 December, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.
It has cost $97-M to fight the 259,000-acre blaze, with thousands of firefighters contending with it 24/7 and helicopters and airplanes being used to drop retardant on the flames.
The vast landscape charred by the blaze, which is centered less than 100 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, reached 259,000 acres early Saturday, surpassing the 257,314 acres destroyed by California’s Rim Fire in Y 2013, authorities said. The Rim Fire had been the 3rd-largest blaze on record in the state.
The Thomas Fire is only 40% contained and it threatens 18,000 structures, officials said, including some in the wealthy enclave of Montecito just outside the City of Santa Barbara. The blaze is chewing up tall grass and brush as it expands along the scenic Pacific Coast.
The hot Santa Ana winds that have helped the fire grow, at times sending embers far ahead of its main flank, were forecast to remain strong through Saturday evening in the Santa Barbara County mountains, the National Weather Service warned. Gusts of up to 40 mph are expected.
From Saturday night through Sunday evening, the winds could lash neighboring Ventura County, the Weather Service said. That is where the Thomas Fire 1st began due to unknown causes, and where it is still burning.
The Thomas Fire was one of several major blazes that broke out in Southern California this month, although the others have been contained.
The blazes forced many schools to close for days, shut roads and drove hundreds of thousands from their homes.
The fires are responsible for poor air quality throughout Southern California.