This page was cached on Sunday, December 17 , 2017, 3:32 pm | Smoke 64º

 
 
 
 

Local News

300 Carpinteria-Area Residents Evacuated as Thomas Fire Grows to 96,000 Acres

South Coast schools close Thursday; mandatory evacuation order issued for Rincon Point area; Caltrans reopens Highway 101 south of Carpinteria

 
Flames from the Thomas Fire flare up Wednesday night off Highway 33 near Ojai. An evacuation warning was issued for parts of Carpinteria as the blaze ballooned to 90,000 acres. Click to view larger
Flames from the Thomas Fire flare up Wednesday night off Highway 33 near Ojai. An evacuation warning was issued for parts of Carpinteria as the blaze ballooned to 90,000 acres. (Ryan Cullom / Ventura County Fire Department photo)

The Carpinteria Valley was on edge Wednesday night, keeping an anxious watch to see whether the giant Thomas Fire would menace the community as it has much of Ventura County over the last two days.

By Thursday morning, flames were approaching the community.

Santa Barbara County issued a mandatory evacuation order for the Rincon Point area at about 1:45 a.m., and Sheriff's Department personnel evacuated some 300 residents from the area of Bates Road.

Mandatory evacuations included the area east of Highway 150 from Rincon Hill Road south to Highway 101, and Bates Road and Rincon Point areas, according to the sheriff's department. 

Click here for the latest Santa Barbara County emergency information and sign up for alerts through Aware & Prepare here

Caltrans closed down Highway 101 in both directions overnight, between Highway 150 south of Carpinteria and Highway 126 in Ventura, effectively cutting off Santa Barbara from Ventura County. 

The southbound and northbound lanes were reopened by 7:15 a.m., according to Caltrans District 5.

Shortly before 7 a.m., several small spot fires were burning in the area of Highway 150 and Highway 192, although the flames had not crossed to the north of the highway. Winds were relatively light, but picking up speed.

Heavy burning was reported in the Matilija Canyon area north of Ojai, and there were reports that flames had reached Divide Peak in the backcountry, an ominous development that could see flames move into the upper Santa Ynez River drainage.

Amtrak announced there would be no train service Thursday between Santa Barbara and Ventura due to the fire, and the Santa Barbara station was reported closed. 

The Thomas Fire flares up along Highway 101 near Sea Cliff west of Ventura Wednesday night. Fire officials say the blaze could eventually burn into Santa Barbara County. Click to view larger
The Thomas Fire flares up along Highway 101 near Sea Cliff west of Ventura Wednesday night. Fire officials say the blaze could eventually burn into Santa Barbara County. (Ray Ford / Noozhawk photo)

There are many road closures in effect in Ventura County due to the fire, including closures of Highway 150 and Highway 33. Gobernador Canyon Road also was closed.

All South Coast schools decided to close Thursday, County Superintendent of Education Susan Salcido announced.

That includes the Carpinteria Unified School District, Santa Barbara Unified School District, Goleta Union School District, Hope Elementary School District, Cold Spring School, Montecito Union School, and private schools including Cate School. 

Santa Barbara City College also closed its campuses Thursday and told students and staff members not to come to campus. 

The Thomas Fire grew to 96,000 acres overnight Wednesday and blew closer to the populated areas of Ojai and Carpinteria. 

People watch the Thomas Fire burn from Highway 33 in Ventura County Wednesday night. Click to view larger
People watch the Thomas Fire burn from Highway 33 in Ventura County Wednesday night.  (Ryan Cullom / Ventura County Fire Department photo)

Ojai areas were under a mandatory evacuation order, with more information here

Evacuation warnings were expanded Wednesday to include the coastal areas from Ventura to Rincon Point, on Santa Barbara County's eastern border, and officials told Noozhawk privately Wednesday evening that at least an evacuation warning was likely for parts of the Carpinteria Valley.

At 8:37 p.m., that warning was issued for the following areas:

» From the 5500 block of Casitas Pass Road (Highway 192) east to the county line to include Lillingston Canyon and Cate Mesa, and all addresses north to the county line. 

» All addresses along the east side of Bailard Avenue from Highway 101.

With flames from the Thomas Fire behind them, two sheriff’s deputies walk across the Padre Juan overpass to Highway 101 west of Ventura Wednesday afternoon. Click to view larger
With flames from the Thomas Fire behind them, two sheriff’s deputies walk across the Padre Juan overpass to Highway 101 west of Ventura Wednesday afternoon. (Diego Topete / Noozhawk photo)

» All areas south of Highway 101 to the coast and east of Dump Road to include all of the Bates Road and Rincon areas.

According to emergency officials, a voluntary evacuation warning "means there is a potential threat to life and property from the fire, but does not generally require leaving immediately. People in the evacuation warning area should make preparations should a mandatory evacuation order be issued.

"People with access and functional needs should consider leaving now. Consideration of evacuating large animals now may be prudent."

Visit the Ventura County emergency website for evacuation updates and information about road and school closures. The CalFire incident page has fire information here.

Calfire reported 5 percent containment for the two-day-old blaze, which has destroyed more than 150 structures and been blamed for at least one fatality.

Flames from the Thomas Fire burn on Rincon Mountain Wednesday. Click to view larger
Flames from the Thomas Fire burn on Rincon Mountain Wednesday. (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

An estimated 12,000 structures remained threatened, and more than 50,000 people are under mandatory evacuation orders, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

Six evacuation shelters were open as of Wednesday, with locations here.

At a 6 p.m. briefing, Calfire officials said they are expecting "very challenging fire and weather conditions" for the next two days, and noted that the Thomas Fire was competing with other Southern California wildfires for firefighting resources.

The weather forecast for the next couple days was not encouraging.

The eastern flank of the fire likely will see the worst conditions, according to Carol Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

The Thomas Fire burns near Highway 101 in the Faria Beach area Wednesday night. Click to view larger
The Thomas Fire burns near Highway 101 in the Faria Beach area Wednesday night.  (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

"The winds are going to be very strong, especially from Piru down through Santa Paula," Smith said. "And very dry."

The forecast for that area calls for winds of 25-40 mph Wednesday night and Thursday, with gusts to 60 mph, Smith said.

Milder conditions are expected to the west of the fire, with 5-10 mph winds in Carpinteria, but more more blustery conditions just to the east, Smith said.

On top of that, humidity levels are expected to be very low — in the single digits in some areas.

Conditions are expected to improve Friday into Saturday, "but winds could come up again on Sunday," Smith warned.

Santa Barbara County was added to the fire's unified incident command Wednesday afternoon because of the northwest advance of the fire, according to the Ventura County Fire Department. 

The Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management issued a map for the Carpinteria-area voluntary evacuation warning zone Wednesday night. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management issued a map for the Carpinteria-area voluntary evacuation warning zone Wednesday night.  (Santa Barbara County photo)

Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni, who has been assigned to the 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 afternoon, smoke-shrouded 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, and Santa Barbara County was later added.

Nearly 1,800 firefighting personnel were assigned to the blaze.

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. That red flag warning was later extended to the Santa Ynez Mountains along the Santa Barbara County South Coast.

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.

Santa Barbara County facilities are accepting evacuated pets and large animals from the Thomas Fire, in addition to the Ventura County Fairgrounds at 10 W. Harbor Blvd.

The animal evacuation hotline is 866.387.8911. 

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."

Check air quality conditions online here

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.

On Monday night into early Tuesday, more than 200,000 customers lost power in southern Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.

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.

Noozhawk Executive Editor Tom Bolton and Contributing Writer Ray Ford contributed to this report.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

A Thomas Fire map from 2:40 p.m. Wednesday shows the fire perimeter in yellow and the mandatory evacuation zones outlined in red. Click to view larger
A Thomas Fire map from 2:40 p.m. Wednesday shows the fire perimeter in yellow and the mandatory evacuation zones outlined in red.  (Ventura County Office of Emergency Services photo)
  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >