Saturday, July 21 , 2018, 1:08 am | Overcast 65º

 
 
 
 

Local News

With Improved Weather, Firefighters Go on Attack Against Thomas Fire

Mellower fire activity is welcome sight for residents and firefighters alike as 269,000 acre blaze enters its 14th day

A Bombardier 415 Superscooper makes a water drop Sunday on hot spots along the hillside east of Gibraltar Road as the Thomas Fire burns into its 14th day. Calmer conditions are allowing firefighters to go on attack against the stubborn blaze. Click to view larger
A Bombardier 415 Superscooper makes a water drop Sunday on hot spots along the hillside east of Gibraltar Road as the Thomas Fire burns into its 14th day. Calmer conditions are allowing firefighters to go on attack against the stubborn blaze. (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

This story was last updated at 3:15 p.m.

Dawn’s early light brought a welcome sight to South Coast residents and firefighters alike on Sunday, as the massive Thomas Fire had visibly calmed overnight.

In contrast to the previous day, when gusty downslope winds whipped the blaze into an inferno, sending a giant pall of smoke over the South Coast, Sunday morning found relatively small columns of smoke rising from the 2-week-old fire, which has grown to 269,000 acres and remained at 40-percent contained.

“I’m doing a hell of a lot better than I was doing yesterday morning,”  Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Eric Peterson told Noozhawk at mid morning.

“I don’t want anyone to think this thing is over,” Peterson added, noting that there is still a lot of containment line to build in rugged territory.

With lower winds and improved visibility, a huge fleet of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft were hammering the blaze with water and retardant drops.

Firefighters on the ground were able to directly attack the flames again in places, after spending Saturday in a defensive posture and defending hundreds of homes from destruction.

A pair of water-dropping helicopters pass while working Sunday on hot spots along the hillside east of Gibraltar Road. Click to view larger
A pair of water-dropping helicopters pass while working Sunday on hot spots along the hillside east of Gibraltar Road. (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

Additionally, hand crews and bulldozers were busy strengthening and expanding containment lines.

The forecast for Sunday through Tuesday is for better weather on the firelines in Santa Barbara County, although a Red Flag fire warning is in place for Ventura County.

Evacuation orders were lifted at 2 p.m. Sunday for parts of the Carpinteria Valley:

» North of Highway 192 (Foothill Road) to the southern boundary of Los Padres National Forest, between Cravens Lane and Casitas Pass Road.  The evacuation order remains in place inside the Los Padres National Forest.

» North of Highway 192 (Foothill Road) to East Camino Cielo, between Casitas Pass Road and the Santa Barbara/Ventura County Line.

» North of Highway 101 and south of Highway 192 (Foothill Road), between Cravens Lane and Casitas Pass Road.  

All other mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders remained unchanged.

The California Highway Patrol reopened Highway 154 to through traffic Sunday afternoon, but will continue having morning closures (from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.) to ease access for fire equipment, the agency said. 

Noozhawk will be monitoring the fire throughout the day. Check back for updates.

Click here to sign up for Noozhawk’s free breaking news text alerts to your cell phone.

Click here for current N-95 mask distribution sites and air quality information.

For Thomas Fire fire response information, check the Santa Barbara County and Ventura County websites.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton 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.

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