Some Evacuations Orders Lifted as Crews Work to Extend Containment of Thomas Fire

The fire is now larger than the monster 2007 Zaca fire, which also burned parts of Santa Barbara County

What to Know

  • The blaze scorched 252,500 acres through its destructive path and is now 35 percent contained.
  • 930 buildings have been destroyed with at least 700 of them being homes.
  • Full containment is expected by Jan. 7, 2018.

Firefighters worked on increasing fire lines Friday in the Ventura County community of Fillmore after gusts died down slightly, providing a brief respite from the critical combination of low humidity and strong winds. 

The Thomas fire covers more than 252,500 acres. That surpassed a blaze that burned inland Santa Barbara County a decade ago, the Zaca fire, as the fourth-biggest fire in California history. Containment was at 35 percent early Friday morning.

Red flag warnings, denoting high fire danger, expired for large portions of Southern California, but a new warning is set to go into effect early Saturday. Santa Ana wind gusts will pick up again, raising the potential for rapidly spreading fires. 

Full containment is not expected until January. Firefighting costs so far were tallied at $88.8 million, according to Cal Fire.

Some evacuations were lifted and the risk to the agricultural city of Fillmore was diminishing. Mandatory evacuation orders were still in effect for the areas of Sespe Creek to the west, Burson Ranch to the east, the Los Padres Forest boundary to the north and the Fillmore City limits to the south.

An advisory has been issued by the city of Fillmore for the areas from Second Street north on Island View, west on Fourth Street to A Street, north to Goodenough Road and north to Levee.

An evacuation warning was lifted Friday for areas south of State Route 192 and north of the 101 Freeway in Santa Barbara County.

About 18,000 structures are threatened by the fire.

The National Weather Service said extreme fire danger conditions could last through the weekend due to lack of moisture along with a likely increase in wind speeds.

The Thomas fire burned into its 11th day Thursday. It claimed the life of a 32-year-old Cory Iverson of Escondido, a Cal Fire engineer from northern San Diego County. He died near Fillmore while helping battle the inferno, which has spread more than 252,000 acres and destroyed nearly 1,000 structures.

It was the second death linked to the fire. A 70-year-old woman was killed in a car crash while evacuating as the fire raged last week. Her body was found inside the wrecked car along an evacuation route. 

Its size places the Thomas fire 5,000 acres behind the Rim fire, the third-largest wildfire on record in California. 

The fire is just one of the deadly and destructive blazes that have ignited this year in California, where high fire risk is expected to last into January. Cal Fire reported 6,877 in California from Jan. 1 to Dec. 10, including the devastating North Bay fires in October. Wildfires in 2017 have scorched more than 505,000 acres, more than double last year’s burned acreage count. During that same period in 2016, the state firefighting agency reported 4,754 fires that burned 244,303 acres.

The state is coming off one of its wettest winters in years in 2016-2017, which left hillsides covered in grass and other vegetation. That grass dried out in summer and turned into tinder, providing fuel for rapidly spreading fires often pushed by strong winds that can carry hot embers for miles and turn small spot fires into infernos.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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