Santa Paula

Gov. Declares State of Emergency for Thomas Fire

"The fire growth is just absolutely exponential," Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said

We are no longer updating this story. Our latest updates on the Thomas Fire can be found here.

Last updated at 11:34 a.m. with state of emergency and latest evacuation orders.

Firefighters on the ground and in the air are battling a fast-moving brush fire raging across 45,000 acres in Ventura County, destroying 150 structures and forcing 27,000 people to flee their homes, fire officials said Tuesday morning.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Ventura County because of the fire.

Officials had earlier said a person's death was associated with the fire, but Ventura County spokesman Bill Nash said early Tuesday that death was a family pet, not a person. One firefighter was injured, but details on his condition weren't immediately available.

The fire, dubbed the Thomas fire, was first burning just south of Thomas Aquinas College. The college issued a fire alert Monday around 8 p.m. and evacuated all students to nearby homes as a precaution. 

"The fire growth is just absolutely exponential," Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said. "All that firefighters can do when we have winds like this is get out ahead, evacuate people, and protect structures."

More than 8,000 homes were evacuated and 20,000 people remained without power Tuesday. That figure was down from 200,000 customers who were in the dark Monday night because of transmission line problems associated with the fire.

The fire spread extremely quickly. The Ventura County Fire Department tweeted that the fire was moving fast and was burning in steep terrain with 25 to 30 mph winds. 

At least 150 structures were damaged, according to the fire department. One of those was the Vista del Mar Hospital, an 83-bed mental health facility at 801 Seneca St. All patients were evacuated safely, but the majority of buildings were left to be nothing but smoking husks. The apartments on the skirts of the facility had not yet been threatened by 6 a.m. 

"Oh my god, just devastation for these people," said Leticia Broida, an employee. "The whole hospital is gone."

[LA - STRINGER UPDATED 12/25] Photos: Thomas Fire Burns in Ventura, Santa Barbara Counties

Mandatory evacuations were ordered for west Ventura shortly before 1 a.m., Tuesday. Multiple homes and buildings were reportedly burned in the area and palm trees were on flames behind Ventura City Hall.

Due to the intensity of the blaze, fire crews were reportedly having difficulties accessing the burned areas. Multiple agencies are responding to the fire.

The Ventura County Sheriff's Office advised residents to go to for the most up-to-date information. 

The Los Angeles County Fire Department was also assisting in the firefight. 

The cause of the fire was unknown.

[NATL-LA GALLERY UPDATED 12/20] 2017 California Wildfires in Photos

Mandatory Evacuations
Nearly 8,000 homes were ordered to evacuate Tuesday from Santa Paula to Ventura.

  • Residents in Santa Paula, east of Dickenson Road, north of Monte Vista Drive along Highway 150 and South of Thomas Aquinas College to the area of Say Road.
  • Residents in Santa Paula, west of Dickenson Road to Atmore Road, north of Foothill Road and west to Wheeler Canyon Road
  • Residents in Upper Ojai, north of Highway 150 from Koenigstein Road west to the Dennison Grade, north to Reeves Road, east to McAndrew Road and north to Grand Avenue.
  • Residents in Santa Paula and Ventura, north of Foothill Road west to Wheeler Canyon Road, north to Canada Larga Road and east to Barlow Canyon Road
  • Residents in Ventura, south of Highway 33, east of Main St, north of Foothill Road and Hall Canyon Road and west of Canada Larga Road
  • Residents in Ventura, east of North Ashwood Avenue along Loma Vista Road to North Victoria Avenue south of Foothill
  • Residents in Ventura County, east of hwy 33 west of Creek Road south of Ojai Valley Inn south of Hwy 150
  • Residents in Ventura County, north of Canada Larga along Hwy 33 to south of Casitas Vista and north along Casitas Vista Road to Lake Casitas
  • Ojai, Thacher School 5025 Thacher Road, Ojai has been evacuated
  • Ventura, Vista Del Mar Hospital has been evacuated and patients will be transported to LA area facilities by ambulance.

Voluntary Evacuations

  • Residents in the City of Ventura south of Loma Vista, east of Day Road, West of Victoria Avenue and north of Telegraph Road
  • Residents in the City of Ventura, east of Victoria north of Loma Vista South of Foothill west of Wells Road.

Evacuation Shelters
There are two evacuation shelters available to residents who were displaced. The first shelter was at the Ventura County Fairgrounds at Miners Building located at 10 West Harbor Blvd. in Ventura. All types of animals are also welcome at this shelter.

The second shelter was at Nordhoff High School at 1401 Maricopa Highway in Ojai. 

A third shelter was set up at the Oxnard College Gymnasium, located at 4000 S Rose Ave. in Oxnard.

Road Closures
The California Highway Patrol closed Highway 150 in both directions -- at Sisar Road, at Stonegate Road, and at Santa Barbara Street -- as firefighters battled the blaze. 

Soft road closures were issued for Wheeler Canyon Road at Foothill Road, Highway 150 at Reeves Road and Highway 150 at Santa Barbara Street. 

School Closures

Santa Paula School District, Oxnard School District, Port Hueneme School District, Ventura Unified School District, Mesa Union School District, and Ojai Unified School districts were all closed Tuesday due to the fire.

Power Outages
About 20,000 customers remain without power Tuesday morning.

The Ventura County Air Unit posted a video to social media showing an aerial view of the Thomas fire burning in Santa Paula on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.

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