Published: Sun, December 17, 2017
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

California winds fuel state's third-largest wildfire

California winds fuel state's third-largest wildfire

Parts of the city of Santa Barbara and the hillside enclaves of Montecito and Carpinteria remain under evacuation orders.

There are hundreds of homes in the fire's potential path, and with winds that strong, it's too unsafe to put firefighters in front of it to stop it.

Winfrey expressed her dismay on her Twitter account.

Oprah Winfrey tweeted: "Still praying for our little town".

A firefighter douses flames around a house that was saved while the property around it burned as winds picked up and pushed the fire west Saturday in Montecito, Calif. It was not clear if the former talk show host was in Montecito.

Winds in the foothill area are hitting around 30 miles per hour, with gusts up to 60 miles per hour.

Red flag warnings were instituted by the weather service in 2004 and are meant to alert fire agencies to hot, dry and windy conditions that foster wildfires.

"The worst was the smoke", Henry said.

Cory Iverson, a San Diego-based firefighter who was one of the thousands fighting the blaze northwest of Los Angeles, died Thursday.

An accident review team is investigating the circumstances surrounding Iverson's death, officials previously said.

There are now 8,477 fire personnel battling the Thomas Fire, which made "an aggressive southward push" into the community of Montecito on Saturday after "very strong north winds" in the morning. A recording said it was closed until further notice due to mandatory fire evacuation, ending with the words: "Be safe".

The vast landscape charred by the blaze, centered fewer than 100 miles (160 km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles, reached 267,500 acres (108,253 hectares) late on Saturday. Crews stripped or burned brush in areas near homes in an effort to starve the blaze.

Olivas said 400 fire engines were sent to protect homes in the area.

Those conditions would be so unsafe that firefighters couldn't battle the fire from the front but would have to "hunker" in safety zones until the flames pass, then move in and fight it, Olivas said.

The Thomas fire is now the third-largest fire in California's history since accurate recording began in 1932.

The Lilac Fire in San Diego County reached 100 percent containment after burning 4,100 acres since December 7.

Firefighters trying to prevent one of the biggest fires in California's history from consuming homes in Santa Barbara and the nearby wealthy enclave of Montecito were hoping less powerful winds would help them after they managed to stop it from burning thousands of residences.

Everything about the fire was massive, from a footprint larger than that of many cities to the sheer scale of destruction that cremated entire neighborhoods or the legions attacking it: about 8,300 firefighters from almost a dozen states, aided by 78 bulldozers and 29 helicopters that were dropping thousands of gallons (liters) of water on fires and hot spots.

The cause remains under investigation. At last count, firefighting costs were approaching $89 million.

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