Carpinteria, Montecito evacuated as California's Thomas Fire grows to 173000 acres

Danny Woods
December 11, 2017

The Thomas Fire, one of five destructive blazes currently burning in California, now ranks as the tenth largest wildfire on record in the state.

New mandatory evacuations were ordered Saturday morning for areas from Rancho Matilija west to Lake Casitas, including Highway 150 west to the Santa Barbara County line.

The Ventura County Medical Examiner said the body of 70-year-old Virginia Pesola from Santa Paula was found in Wheeler Canyon on Wednesday night at the scene of a auto crash along an evacuation route.

The authorities also lifted evacuation orders for sections of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

The fires are said to have spread rapidly due to extreme weather, including low humidity and parched ground, prompting authorities to issue a purple alert, the highest level warning that means extremely critical fire weather.

The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that the Thomas fire, which started last week, has reached 170,000 acres and has displaced almost 90,000 people. And more than 85,000 people were without electricity in the Santa Barbara area.

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Multiple fire agencies have contained the blaze by 15 percent as it destroyed 460 homes in the city of Ventura and an additional 140 homes in the county.

According to reports, Thomas Fire, the largest wildfire to hit southern California recently, has by far burned nearly 155,000 acres of land, or nearly the size of Chicago.

"The cause of death is blunt force injuries with terminal smoke inhalation and thermal injuries", Ventura County Medical Examiner Christopher Young said in a statement on Friday. Jerry Brown paid a visit to Ventura on the sixth day of the Thomas Fire fight. "This is kind of the new normal". Gusts of up to 35 miles per hour have caused the fire to spread erratically.

For comparison, the fires that burned in California's wine country in Napa and Sonoma counties in October consumed about 110,000 acres.

The 421-acre Skirball Fire, which broke out Wednesday in the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, was 75 percent contained.

Some 98,000 people remain evacuated from their homes throughout Southern California, with 25,000 homes still threatened, Esseling said.

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