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Anxious Ojai Residents Ask Whether Their City Is Going to Burn Down in Thomas Fire

The Thomas Fire burns along a hillside near Santa Paula on Dec. 5, 2017. (Credit: KYLE GRILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)

The Thomas Fire burns along a hillside near Santa Paula on Dec. 5, 2017. (Credit: KYLE GRILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)

The sight of firetrucks rolling past Ojai boutiques and wine-tasting rooms under a heavy pall of smoke made it impossible for officials to give a satisfying response to the big question on everyone’s minds Wednesday morning: Is the town going to burn down?

“I’ve been telling people, ‘If you can get your loved ones and valuables to a safe place, you should,’” said Ojai City Manager Steve McClary. “That’s a tough answer to give. I wish I could be more specific. But this is no time for false promises.”

Eastern portions of the mountain community of about 20,000 were under mandatory evacuation orders. Downtown residents and shop owners, though, faced voluntary evacuation, and worried that a shift in the wind could drive wildfires on surrounding ridgelines farther south and into town.

On Wednesday, signs of Christmas along downtown Ojai’s 19th-century-style promenades provided a moody contrast to the “closed” signs dangling from the doors of restaurants, shops and bed-and-breakfast inns.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.