Thomas Fire at 89 percent containment

Dec 27, 2017

A brush fire exploded on December 4 into a fierce wildfire burning over 440 square miles from Santa Paula to the hills above Santa Barbara, and eastward into the Los Padres National Forest. This week, several hundred firefighters remain on the scene working to extinguish all flames and mop up; containment is now at 89 percent. 

UPDATE 12/22/17 9 A.M. The last of the daily briefings on the Thomas Fire's progress was held Dec. 20 by fire officials. KCBX News will also discontinue twice-daily updates on the fire, as crews work towards a January 7 target date for total containment. Over the next week, however, we will update numbers and any new information as it become available.

On Dec. 27, CalFire announced it was no longer the lead agency on the Thomas Fire, and that command was now in the hands of the U.S. Forest Service/Los Padres National Forest. Click here to see the forest service's updates. 

UDPATE 12/20/17 6 P.M. Battalion Chief Chris Childers says if firefighters are able to hold the fire line through the night, all evacuees should be able to return home Thursday. CalFire's Daniel Berlant said wind gusts of 40 to 50 miles per hour are forecasted, and will test current containment efforts in the Santa Barbara front country. On Wednesday afternoon, CalFire's Thomas Fire website went down due to technical difficulties. On Twitter, the agency said, "for more details on the #ThomasFire please see the latest factsheet. More info will be posted on here as available. Thank you as we work to resolve the issue." 

UPDATE 12/20/17 9 A.M.  Today's forecasted strong winds will present a challenge in getting the massive blaze under control, say officials, and firefighters will work at holding the fire line in the Santa Barbara foothills throughout the day. According to the multi-agency update published early Wednesday morning, "Montecito will continue to be an area of concern, where north winds are funneled through the Santa Ynez Range. Resources will maintain a strong presence in Montecito, continuing with tactical patrol and improvement of the fire perimeter. Firefighters will continue strengthening fireline where line above the communities ties into Gibralter Road and the Tea fire and Jesusita fire footprints. The area between Devil's Gate and Fillmore will be patrolled as will Ojai, Carpinteria and the area between Fillmore and Ventura along Highway 126. Fire spread in the Bear Haven area will be closely monitored. Contingency groups will continue to construct secondary lines to the west of Gibralter Road and north of the Sespe drainage." 

UPDATE 12/19/17 6 P.M Favorable weather conditions Tuesday helped firefighters gain more control of the fire. "We had a very good day," Santa Barbara County Battalion Chief Chris Childers said at the daily 4 p.m. briefing. 2000 more Santa Barbara residents were allowed back into their homes and neighborhoods today as evacuation orders were lifted. 12,000 Santa Barbara residents remain under mandatory evacuation orders. 

UPDATE 12/19/17 9 A.M. Fire officials say they hope to have most evacuated Santa Barbara residents back home by the Christmas weekend, given forecasted high winds on Wednesday don’t alter plans. “We are doing seek and destroy missions,” said Cal Fire assistant chief Geoff Pemberton during Monday evening's briefly. “You'll hear from the operational folks here shortly that are going out painstakingly with GPS [latitudes] and [longitudes] to look for those hot spots, to make sure we have them all out once we're through that weather event. We feel very positive that we will have everybody back home by the end of the week.” Pemberton says if current weather conditions continue, firefighters expect containment numbers to increase over the next few days. Wednesday night is the next worry and right now, crews are acting to move offensively to protect homes from flare ups mid-week. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown thanked the people of Santa Barbara for their cooperation and kindness to firefighters over the past two weeks. Brown said crews have been getting nonstop donations of coffee gift cards, cookies, cakes and even venison sausage sent from Texas. “Today the undersheriff and I were having lunch in a restaurant in Santa Barbara, and I want to say ‘thank you’ to the two ladies who paid for our lunch and left before we had a chance to go over and say ‘thank you’ for that,” Brown said Monday. Tony Cipolla of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office said when Santa Barbara County Fire requested mutual aid over the weekend, about 30 officers and other staff from San Luis Obispo County agencies headed south to help; 22 more will be sent Tuesday to relieve those working since then. This week, the CHP will continue to close Highway 154 entirely each morning from 5 to 9 a.m.  

UPDATE 12/18/17 3 P.M. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office lifted evacuation orders for the Toro Canyon Area. Click here to see complete list of affected areas.

UPDATE 12/18/17 10 A.M. Two weeks after the Thomas fire started, firefighters have gotten a handle on approximately half the active fire lines, and better weather conditions Sunday helped efforts. Los Padres Forest officials are holding a press conference at noon to provide details on the use of aircraft in fighting the fire. According to Caltrans, "only Highway 33 remains closed in Ventura County due to #ThomasFire. Use QuickMap, quickmap.dot.ca.gov for updates on road closures along 101, 154 and 192 in Santa Barbara County. " Strong winds are forecasted for Wednesday.  

UPDATE 12/17/17 10 A.M. The number of homes and businesses destroyed by the 13-day-old Thomas fire has increased to 1,020, with 242 damaged, according to CalFire's 9 a.m. update. CalFire sent out a news release in English and Spanish announcing a 6 p.m. daily press conference at the Ventura Fairgrounds: "Representatives from the agencies managing the incident will provide an operational briefing and be available for questions at its conclusion." Also from CalFire, "red flag warnings will remain in place over the fire for the next operational period for high wind and low humidity. Critical fire weather will continue over the fire area, with north/northeast winds forecasted. Critical fire weather combined with very high fuel loading, critically low fuel moistures, and single-digit relative humidities will continue to support fire growth on the west, east and north sides of the fire. Areas of concern are above the coastal Santa Barbara County communities, including Santa Barbara, Montecito, and Summerland, and also Matilija Wilderness, Rose Valley, and Sespe river drainage north of Fillmore. The threat continues to Fillmore and surrounding agricultural values with fire being established in the Sespe drainage. Fire suppression repair and damage inspection will continue as appropriate based on fire conditions."

UPDATE 12/16/17 5:30 P.M. Today the threat to Montecito worsened. Per Santa Barbara County, mandatory evacuations are in effect for "all areas east of Highway 154, south of East Camino Cielo, west of Toro Canyon and north of Highway 101 at Toro Canyon to South Salinas then north of Alameda Padre Serra and to Highway 192 west to 154. The previous evacuation order for the area east of Toro Canyon to Casitas Pass Road north of Highway 192 and south of East Camino Cielo remains in effect. Residents should leave immediately. An evacuation shelter has been established at the UCSB Recreational Center, 516 Ocean Road, Santa Barbara, 93106. Animal evacuation centers are available for residents in evacuation zones. Please contact the Animal Services hotline at (805) 681-4332 to coordinate the sheltering and care of large and small animals."  

UPDATE 12/16/17 9 A.M. Overnight the threat to Montecito worsened. Strong winds are fanning the flames and spreading the fire westward. New mandatory evacuations are ordered.

UPDATE 12/15/17 6 P.M. Winds have shifted today to flowing onshore, which will blow the smoke from the massive Thomas Fire in an eastward direction, worsening air quality conditions for eastern Ventura County. Flames at the western edge are moving into the 2008 Tea and 2007 Zaca burn zones. The fire remains at 35 percent containment. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff lifted evacuation orders for areas of Santa Barbara, south of 192 and north of 101 from Rincon Point to Casitas Pass Road. The areas of north of 192 remain under mandatory evacuation orders. According to the City of Santa Barbara, "firefighters have achieved a major milestone by bringing together one of the largest coalitions of fire apparatus and personnel ever assembled. Currently, more than 8,300 firefighters, 1018 fire engines, 80 dozers, 60 four-wheeled water tankers, a full complement of air assets, and more than 150 hand crews are working to bring the fire to containment.  

UPDATE 12/15/17 9 A.M. 728 single-family homes have been destroyed. According to this morning's incident update, "firefighters will remain prepared for structure defense operations and continue direct line construction above the communities of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Summerland, and Montecito. Evacuation operations will occur ahead of westward fire growth as needed. Contingency groups will improve existing fuel breaks in Santa Barbara County, particularly in the areas of Windy Gap and Foothills." 

UPDATE 12/14/17 6 P.M. San Diego firefighter Cory Iverson died today in the line of duty. The fire has grown in size and officials say they are worried about wind forecasted for Friday evening. No new evacuations were ordered in Santa Barbara Thursday, but as fire activity increased in Ventura County, officials called for evacuations in the Fillmore area.

UPDATE 12/14/17 10 A.M. The number of structures destroyed by the fire has risen to 972. A red flag warning is in effect until Friday morning, and according to CalFire fire command, "the majority of resources will focus on securing the western side of the fire, above the coastal communities in Santa Barbara County. Firefighters will remain engaged in structure defense operations and establish direct fireline where possible working to tie into the Tea fire and Jesusita fire footprints. Fire will continue to threaten the communities of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Summerland, Montecito and surrounding areas." 

UPDATE 12/13/17 6 P.M. Fire officials said at the daily late-afternoon information meeting they are concerned about a weather pattern forecasted for Friday night and Saturday night. Meanwhile, residents around the Ventura/Santa Barbara county line have been allowed back into their neighborhoods. 62,000 homes and businesses are currently threatened by the fire, as are 900 communication towers, four electrical plants, 23 electrical substations and 301 miles of oil and gas pipelines, according to CalFire representative Geoff Pemberton.

UPDATE 12/13/17 9 A.M. Firefighters kept the fire from gaining more ground Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. Officials say today, most of the activity will be at the west end of the fire.

UPDATE 12/12/17 6 P.M. Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Eric Peterson said Tuesday night's fire activity will be very similar to Monday night's, with "unprecedented" humidity. No new evacuations were ordered Tuesday. 18,000 homes and businesses remain under threat. 

UPDATE 12/12/17 10 A.M. Fire officials have scheduled another community informational meeting for 4 p.m. Tuesday at San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara. 

UPDATE 12/11/17 2:30 P.M. An evacuation map published at 1 p.m. shows mandatory evacuations ordered for Santa Barbara neighborhoods north of SR 192, from the Ventura County line to Mission Canyon. From Mission Canyon to Hwy. 154, residents are advised to voluntarily evacuate.  All areas in Carpinteria, Summerland and Santa Barbara south of 192 are under voluntary evacuation orders.

UPDATE 12/11/17 9 A.M. Click here for latest official information. Just under 100,000 people remain evacuated from their homes due to the Thomas Fire. On Sunday, SB County's sheriff issued mandatory evacuation orders for areas east of Santa Barbara. County officials are handing out N95 masks at several locations: the Costco in the Camino Real Marketplace (7095 Market Pl Drive, Goleta), 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.; Franklin Community Center (1136 East Montecito Street, Santa Barbara), 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.; Albertson’s in Carpinteria (1018 Casitas Pass Road, Carpinteria),10 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Santa Barbara Public Library, 40 East Anapamu Street, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Lompoc Home Depot (1701 East Ocean, Lompoc), 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. 

UPDATE 12/10/17 9:30 P.M. Over the day Sunday, the fire burned an additional 100 square miles. Many schools and colleges in western Ventura County and Santa Barbara County will be closed Monday. Classes are canceled Monday for the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District, Santa Maria Bonita, Orcutt, and Guadalupe school districts. Click here for details. 

UPDATE 12/10/17 4 P.M. Fire officials are holding a 4 p.m. town hall at San Marcos High School. Livestream it at www.keyt.com. The fire has now destroyed 754 homes and businesses. Finals at U.C. Santa Barbara have been postponed to the week of January 8 so students can leave the campus. At the informational meeting, SB County Sheriff Bill Brown said 5,000 Santa Barbara residents now under mandatory evacuation.

UPDATE 12/10/17 8 A.M. Law enforcement officials issued mandatory evacuation orders early Sunday morning for Carpinteria and Montecito as the fire expanded westward. At 2:30 a.m., the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office issued a mandatory evacuation order for the area from SR-192 north to East Camino Cielo between Toro Canyon Road and Linden Avenue, and an evacuation warning for the area south of SR-192 to US-101 from Toro Canyon Road to Linden Avenue; south of US-101 to the Pacific Ocean from Padaro Ln to Linden Avenue; SR-192 north to East Camino Cielo between Toro Canyon Road and Ladera Lane. At 6 A.M., those mantatory orders expanded in the Montecito area from Buena Vista Drive to Toro Canyon Road and from SR-192 north to Camino Cielo; see www.CountyofSB.org for complete list.

UPDATE 12/09/17 5 P.M.  Since Monday, the Thomas Fire has destroyed 537 homes and businesses and damaged another 118. Today more evacuation orders were lifted for Ventura County, Santa Barbara County and parts of the city of Ventura. Click here to see map. The fire is expanding northward into the Sespe Wilderness. The Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management sent an email Saturday announcing "effective 10 a.m. on Saturday, December 9, residents will be permitted into the Shepherd Mesa and Gobernador Canyon area as it has been reduced from a mandatory evacuation (order) to a voluntary evacuation (warning). All areas south of Highway 192 , including the city of Carpinteria, are no longer under any evacuation status."

UPDATE 12/08/17 5:45 P.M. Mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders have been lifted in the cities of Ventura and Santa Paula. Click here to see a detailed list. 

UPDATE 12/08/17 10 A.M. Thursday night, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Santa Barbara County and asked for federal assistance in fighting the Thomas Fire. Earlier this week, Brown declared a state of emergency in Ventura, Los Angeles and San Diego counties. The fire is now at 10 percent containment; it grew overnight by about 25 square miles. Approximately 15,000 homes and businesses are currently threatened by the blaze.

UPDATE 12/07/17 6 P.M. A town hall meeting is scheduled tonight in Carpinteria. Fire officials in charge of fighting the Thomas Fire will provide a briefing and answer questions. The Ventura County Fire Department said the meeting starts at 8 p.m. at Carpinteria High School, located at 4810 Foothill Road in Carpinteria. The zip code is 93013. 

UPDATE 12/07/17 1:30 P.M. The Santa Barbara Unified School District announced all schools will remain closed Thursday and Friday. Santa Barbara City College has closed as well through Saturday. 

UPDATE 12/07/17 11 P.M. CalFire reports the Thomas Fire has destroyed 73 homes, three businesses and 15 outbuildings since Monday night, and an assessment is ongoing, so those numbers could change. 15,000 homes and businesses remain under threat. Most schools in the area are closed, as is Santa Barbara City College. A mandatory evacuation order was issued for the Carpinteria area in Santa Barbara County, as the fire has pushed westward. Evacuation centers are operating in the cities of Santa Paula, Ojai, Ventura, Oxnard and Fillmore. Animal evacuations are being directed to the Ventura County Fairgrounds. For more detailed information, click here to see the Thomas Fire Incident Update.

UPDATE 12/06/17 8 P.M. CalFire officials report the fire has grown to over 140 square miles, with five percent containment. 12,000 homes and businesses are considered threatened.

UPDATE 12/06/17 11:48 A.M: The Thomas Fire has grown to over 101 square miles and remains at zero percent containment. 150 structures have burned, and firefighters say strong winds are expected to fan the flames Thursday. Click here to see a list of mandatory evacuation areas.

For information on the Thomas Fire, the Ventura County Fire Department is directing people to visit readyventuracounty.org or call the fire hotline at (805) 465-6650. Mandatory evacuations were issued for the entire community of Casitas Springs; in the east Ojai Valley: Carne Road east to McAndrew Road and Reeves Road north to Thacher Road; and in the city of Ventura: Victoria Road east to Hill Road, Telegraph Road north to Foothill Road, North Ashwood Avenue east to Hill Road, Telegraph Road north to Foothill Road, Teloma east to Brent Street and Telegraph Road north to north of Foothill Road.

The fire started around 6:30 p.m. on December 4 north of Santa Paula near Highway 150, and has burned towards Highway 33. The California Highway Patrol closed Highway 150 from Ojai to Santa Paula.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Santa Barbara County announced it had set up at additional evacuation shelter at UCSB Multi Activity Center, located at 552 University Road in Santa Barbara. The zip code is 93106. The county is directing evacuees to enter the UCSB campus through the main east entrance.

43,000 Southern California Edison electricity customers were without power as of 4 p.m. Tuesday. We will continue to update this post as more information becomes available.