New evacuations ordered as California wildfires rage on


Posted at Dec 11 2017 12:59 AM

Firefighters attack the Thomas Fire’s north flank with backfires as they continue to fight a massive wildfire north of Los Angeles, near Ojai, Calif., Saturday. Gene Blevins, Reuters

VENTURA, Calif.—The largest California wildfire advanced on coastal towns near Santa Barbara on Sunday, stoked by the gusty winds and dry conditions that have fueled destructive blazes across the state's southern region.

Authorities ordered residents in parts of Carpinteria and Montecito to evacuate early on Sunday as the Thomas Fire edged closer to the city of Santa Barbara, about 160 km west of Los Angeles. The blaze has already blackened 62,726 hectares and consumed hundreds of structures.

Some half-dozen fires have raged across California since early last week.

At least one home in Carpinteria burned down on Sunday, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department said. The fire was only 15 percent contained as of Sunday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

Top wind speeds were forecast to increase to 89 km per hour on Sunday from 64 kph on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. The gusts, coupled with the rugged mountain terrain above Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, have hampered firefighting efforts, authorities said.

The fires raging across Southern California have forced the evacuation of some 200,000 people and destroyed nearly 800 structures. A 70-year-old woman died Wednesday in a car accident as she attempted to flee the flames in Ventura County.

The Thomas Fire, the largest of the infernos, had left nearly 90,000 customers without power as of early Sunday morning, Southern California Edison said on its website.

The 8,5000 firefighters battling the fires that have burned over the past week gained some ground on Saturday.

Both the Creek and Rye fires in Los Angeles County were 90 percent contained by Sunday morning, officials said, while the Skirball Fire in Los Angeles was 75 percent contained.

North of San Diego, the 1,659 hectare Lilac Fire was 60 percent contained by Sunday.

A brush fire broke out Saturday night in the city of Monrovia in Los Angeles County, prompting temporary evacuations, the U.S. Forest Service said on Twitter.

A group of Boy Scouts camping in the area were among those evacuated, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Crews knocked down the 1.2 hectare blaze and no structures were reported damaged, the city of Monrovia said on its web site.

California Governor Jerry Brown issued emergency proclamations last week for Santa Barbara, San Diego, Los Angeles and Ventura counties, freeing up additional resources to fight the infernos.

President Donald Trump issued a federal proclamation that enabled agencies to coordinate relief efforts. (Reporting by Phoenix Tso and Caroline Anderson; Additional reporting by Mike Blake in San Diego; Writing by Joseph Ax; Editing by Toby Chopra and Jeffrey Benkoe)