Firefighters Working to Prevent Montecito from Being Consumed
8000 firefighters are trying to prevent perhaps the biggest fires in California’s history from consuming homes in Santa Barbara and the nearby enclave of Montecito.
They are hoping less powerful Santa Ana winds would help them Sunday after they managed to stop it from burning thousands of residences.
Crews took advantage of calmer winds overnight, clearing brush and digging containment lines above hillside neighborhoods.
“Everything’s holding really well,” a representative said.
While gusts were expected to ease somewhat, even the lower intensity winds are still extremely dangerous, she said.
The fire that started nearly 2 weeks ago has burned at least 700 residences and killed a firefighter, but firefighters have saved thousands of homes from being destroyed.
Some evacuations were lifted to the east in Ventura County where the blaze erupted and officials reported progress protecting the inland agricultural city of Fillmore.
Mandatory evacuations remained in place around Montecito and neighboring Summerland as firefighters sprayed water onto hot spots sparked by wind-blown embers. A portion of the city of Santa Barbara was under mandatory evacuation.
Restaurants and small stores on normally bustling State Street were shuttered Saturday.
The 420-sqm blaze called the Thomas Fire was moving rapidly westward and crested Montecito Peak, just north of Montecito.
There was a spot of good news down the coast. Emergency officials announced that the same fire that was burning about 25 miles southeast of Montecito was 40% contained.
Since the fire began on 4 December, about 95,000 people have been placed under mandatory evacuation. The evacuation zone near Santa Barbara on Saturday was 17 miles long and up to 5 miles wide and the new expansion encompassed about 3,300 people.
Everything about the fire has been huge, from the sheer scale of destruction that cremated entire neighborhoods to the legions attacking it: about 8,300 firefighters from 12 states, aided by 78 bulldozers and 29 helicopters.
The cause remains under investigation. So far, firefighting costs have surpassed $117-M.