Santa Ana winds fuel growing Thomas Fire
VENTURA, Calif. — Gusty Santa Ana winds, dry conditions and single-digit humidity in Southern California offered no relief Thursday to firefighters battling one of the largest wildfires in state history.
The Thomas Fire, covering 242,500 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, now covers more area than New York City. It was 30% contained Thursday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as CalFire.
“The winds will be kicking up quickly today and the offshore winds will once again bring the relative humidity critically low,” CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said. “This will make the situation much tougher on the over 8,000 fire personnel fighting this fire.”
“We could certainly see that 30% containment number go down as the fire responds to the stronger Santa Ana winds than what we have seen the past couple of days,” he said.
One of six major wildfires burning in Southern California, the Thomas Fire is already the fourth largest in California history and is growing, CalFire said. Nearly 1,000 fire engines and 27 helicopters are involved in battling the blaze, the agency said.
Winds were expected to be fierce Thursday morning, with gusts stronger than 60 mph in the Los Angeles mountains and more typical gusts of 35 to 50 mph in the valleys and coastal areas.
Fire threatened the communities of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Summerland and Montecito, according to CalFire. Crews were working to build fire lines north of those areas.
The Thomas fire broke out December 4 in Ojai, northwest of Los Angeles. Aided by the strong Santa Ana winds, it quickly spread to the city of Ventura, according to the federal InciWeb fire information website.
More than 1,000 structures have been damaged or destroyed in the Thomas Fire, and another 18,000 structures are threatened, CalFire said.
At least 95,000 residents have been evacuated in Southern California, CalFire said.