Winds Could Push Thomas Fire into Santa Barbara County
By Giana Magnolia
The Thomas Fire could burn into Santa Barbara County when winds pick up again, and the evacuation zones expanded Wednesday morning to include Rincon Point, east of Carpinteria.
The blaze had blackened 65,000 acres as of Wednesday and made a run to the ocean, crossing Highway 101 near the Solimar Beach area.
Calfire reported 0 percent containment, 12,000 structures were threatened and 1,776 firefighting personnel were assigned to the blaze.
“The fire continues to burn actively with extreme rates of spread and long range spotting when pushed by winds,” Calfire officials said in a Wednesday morning update.
“The fire is established on the north and east side of Hwy 150, and is also burning on the west side of Hwy (33). The fire has pushed northwest of Ventura and has reached the Hwy 101. Firefighters continue to work aggressively to protect life and property while working on control efforts around the fire perimeter.”
Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni, who has been on the scene of the Thomas Fire this week, said there were light winds Wednesday morning but that was expected to change.
Forecasts have Santa Ana winds picking up Wednesday afternoon into Thursday or even Friday, which could cause the fire to grow rapidly as it did the first night, burning about 45,000 acres in five hours.
Zaniboni said the fire’s Unified Command is focusing on the western edge of the fire closest to Santa Barbara, and planned to get more aircraft in that area Wednesday.
“If we get the winds that we’ve had, which are predicted later today, tonight and tomorrow, it could definitely move that way,” Zaniboni said Wednesday morning.
Wednesday afternoon, Highway 150 was closed between Carpinteria and Lake Casitas, according to Caltrans.
The Unified Command as of Wednesday included CalFire, Los Padres National Forest, the Ventura County Fire Department and the city of Ventura.
Unified Command’s control objectives Tuesday night were to keep the fire north of Highway 126, east of Highway 101, west of Toland Road and south of Highway 150 to Reeves Road to Hern Canyon Road to Nordoff Ridge.
Ventura County’s Office of Emergency Services updated the evacuation map at 11 a.m. Wednesday and mandatory evacuation zones expanded west to Rincon Point.
Scroll down to view the most recent map.
More than 50,000 people were affected by evacuation orders, according to the Ventura County Fire Department, and there were six shelters open as of Wednesday, with locations here.
Many schools in Ventura County closed Wednesday as did Carpinteria Unified School District. CUSD Superintendent Diana Rigby said schools will be closed again Thursday due to the fire.
The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory and red flag warning for the Ventura area through 8 p.m. Friday, due to the elevated fire risk from predicted Santa Ana winds and low relative humidity.
The fire that burned south toward the ocean, crossing Highway 101 near Solimar Beach Tuesday night, was being classified as a 2,000-acre spot fire off the main Thomas Fire, Zaniboni said, adding that it would likely soon meet up with the main fire.
There are several evacuation centers open in Ventura County for people displaced by the fire and those who have lost their homes, and the Pacific Coast Chapter of the American Red Cross opened an evacuation center at UCSB Tuesday night.
Thousands of people commute from Ventura County to Santa Barbara every day, and some of them would not have been able to return home Tuesday night as more buildings burned and the mandatory evacuation zone expanded.
Santa Barbara County facilities are also accepting evacuated pets and large animals from the Thomas Fire, in addition to the Ventura County Fairgrounds at 10 W. Harbor Blvd.
Small animals can be taken to the Santa Barbara Humane Society at 5399 Overpass Road, and large animals can be taken to Earl Warren Showgrounds at 3400 Calle Real in Santa Barbara, according to the county.
An air quality warning continued for Santa Barbara County Wednesday, and the Air Pollution Control District said that air monitoring stations in Goleta and Santa Barbara on Tuesday “recorded levels that were unhealthy for all to breathe yesterday. Smoke and ash from the Thomas Fire burning in Ventura County may continue to affect local air quality for days.”
Southern California Edison was working to return power to fire-impacted areas and as of 4 a.m. Wednesday, reported a 6,565-customer outage due to the Thomas Fire, a significant decrease since the day before.
As of Wednesday, there were also fire-related outages reported for the Rye Fire in Santa Clarita and the Creek Fire in Sylmar.
Check back with Noozhawk for updates to this story.