Firefighters are bracing Sunday morning to stop a wall of fire that is advancing on Carpenteria and Montecito, two towns that line the southeast approach to Santa Barbara along Highway 101 and that stand in the direct path of the massive Thomas fire.
The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that the Thomas fire, which started last week, has reached 170,000 acres and has displaced nearly 90,000 people. It has only been 15% contained, though firefighters believe they are making progress. Saturday was a successful day in the battles against other fires across Southern California, as weaker winds helped slow the advance of the blazes — though the damage toll mounted as residents assessed losses.
The Times noted that coastal towns in the area were “under siege”: “Firefighters on Sunday morning were making a stand at a cluster of homes on Shepard Mesa Road in Carpinteria, where flames threatened to sweep through the area, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.”
The local Santa Barbara News-Press reported ominously that the fire had crossed from Ventura County into Santa Barbara County on Saturday afternoon. However, it noted that local fire officials had been preparing for days:
The blaze was following the ridge line and moving in a westerly direction, but remains about 6 to 7 miles north of Carpinteria. The fire was expected to move into the county as soon as Thursday and the progression was expected, he added.
“It was absolutely expected,” Capt. Zaniboni said. “That’s why Santa Barbara was added to unified command. We were fully expecting (the fire) to be here, and actually we were expecting it to be here two days ago.”
As the fire was burning in the mountains, an indirect fire line was constructed by bulldozers to protect county residents, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.
Minimal fire activity occurred along the coastline near the city of Carpinteria, allowing authorities to lift several evacuation orders that had been in place.
Authorities distributed masks to help residents avoid breathing unhealthy particles from the fires. Amtrak has suspended service to the area until further notice.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.