California fire threatens upmarket resort of Montecito as blaze threatens for another week

Wednesday, December 13, 2017
By Paul Martin

AN out-of-control California wildfire that has already destroyed nearly 700 homes in its path of destruction crept closer to the upscale hillside community of Montecito despite calmer winds that slowed its progress.
Wed, Dec 13, 2017

The Thomas Fire, which broke out on December 4 near the community of Ojai, has since travelled 27 miles to become the fifth-largest blaze in state history. It has blackened more than 368 square miles in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, an area larger than New York City.

Officials said that while the conflagration charred another 2,500 acres overnight, a break in the hot, dry Santa Ana winds yesterday sapped its forward momentum and allowed crews to prevent further damage to homes.

“It’s doing what we want it to do. The fire is staying away from the homes,” said Captain Steve Concialdi of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The flames were 25 per cent contained as of yesterday evening.

Captain Concialdi said that some of the 7,000 firemen deployed against the blaze had taken advantage of the better weather to set controlled burns in a canyon near the community of Carpinteria and near homes in an effort to further deprive the flames of fuel.

The National Weather Service has warned that the Santa Ana winds could return as early as today, meaning that the fire remains dangerous and unpredictable.

“Severe fire weather will continue to promote significant fire growth further into Santa Barbara County, threatening the communities of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Montecito and Summerland,” Cal Fire said in a statement.

In Washington, members of the House of Representatives met Vice President Mike Pence to discuss the crisis. Representative Julia Brownley, whose district includes Ventura, said all resources had arrived to fight the blaze, which could take another week to contain.

In Carpinteria, Michelle Warner, who has lived in the seaside town her whole life, and her toddler daughter wore face masks to protect them from the thick smoke. Thanks to the firefighters’ efforts, Mrs Warner, a 45-year-old writer, said she had no plans to evacuate.

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