‘Out of Control’ Thomas Fire in Ventura County Grows to 90,000 Acres, Prompts Additional Evacuations

This is a developing wildfire story. Please check back frequently for updates.

The Thomas Fire reaches the 101 Freeway north of Ventura Wednesday evening. (Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

The Thomas Fire reaches the 101 Freeway north of Ventura Wednesday evening. (Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

An erratic fire in Ventura County that has burned in several cities has grown to 90,000 acres and was just 5 percent contained as it headed north toward Santa Barbara County, and more evacuations were ordered Wednesday evening as winds kicked up in the area.

As of Wednesday night, the fire was burning on the north and east side of Highway 150, the west side of Highway 33 and has pushed northwest to Ventura and reached the 101 Freeway and the Pacific Ocean.

Fire officials were expecting extreme wind starting around 10 p.m., something that is especially worrisome given that the flames were already burning "actively with extreme rates of spread," according to the latest incident update from Cal Fire. Winds were also pushing embers, fueling long-range spotting and helping the fire's spread.

A red flag warning will be in effect for the Ventura County area until 8 p.m. Saturday, according to National Weather Service spokesperson Rich Thompson. He said very dry conditions — 4 to 8 percent humidity — and strengthening Santa Ana Winds with gusts 30 to 50 mph were expected in the county Wednesday evening and Thursday, calling weather conditions a "recipe for explosive fire growth."

There's high potential of large fire growth on the north and west side of the Thomas Fire in the next 24 to 48 hours, fire behavior analyst Tim Chavez said.

Heavy smoke covers the seaside enclave of Mondos Beach beside the 101 highway as flames reach the coast during the Thomas Fire near Ventura, on Dec. 6, 2017. (Credit: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Heavy smoke covers the seaside enclave of Mondos Beach beside the 101 highway as flames reach the coast during the Thomas Fire near Ventura, on Dec. 6, 2017.
(Credit: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

The Thomas Fire began Monday evening north of Santa Paula, according to Cal Fire. It's burning on Highway 150 and Highway 33.

The flames wreaked havoc as the fire swept through areas of Ventura, Santa Paula, leaving a path of a devastation and destruction before moving toward the coast near Solimar Beach Tuesday night.

By Wednesday night, the fire was moving northward toward the Santa Barbara County line near Lake Casitas; it has also started to travel in the direction of the Los Padres National Forest and Sespe Wilderness area.

Nearly 2,500 fire personnel were aggressively trying to contain the fire by air and on the ground while they worked to protect life and property in the region. About 475 engines have been assigned to the fire, along with seven water tenders, 12 helicopters, 29 hand crews and 26 dozers.

More than 50,000 people from about 15,000 homes were evacuated within 24 hours, Ventura City Fire Chief David Endaya said.

As of 3:33 p.m. Wednesday, Cal Fire has reported 150 structures destroyed and 12,000 structures threatened.

Ventura County Fire Capt. Steve Kaufmann said crews were still assessing damage as of Wednesday evening.

The “out of control” fire was being pushed by gusty east winds, the Ventura County Fire Department reported.

The Ventura County Fire Department explained Wednesday afternoon that winds in the area have changed directions, pushing smoke into Ventura, Oxnard and Camarillo. Air quality and visibility were low.

Aerial video showed a plume of smoke over a large area of Ventura County.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in the county, and county, Ventura and Santa Paula officials have proclaimed a local emergency.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved grants to help cover costs of the Thomas Fire, as well as other blazes burning in Southern California, officials tweeted Wednesday.

Tom and Linda Craft returned to a Ventura neighborhood where her sister lives and discovered charred remains.

Linda Craft said her sister repurchased a home in the neighborhood about six years ago and all of their photos, family archives and special collections are gone.

“We just spent Thanksgiving here,” Linda said outside the home, now a pile of rubble. “It’s been a wonderful family home.”

“It’s absolutely devastating,” Tom Craft said.

Mandatory evacuations remain in place in the following locations:

-Santa Paula: Boundary of Say Road north to Thomas Aquinas, Dickenson Ranch Road east to Santa Paula Creek; Boundary of Monte Vista Street north to city limits; Foothill Road from Steckel to Peck Road to north of city limits

Ventura: Teloma east to Brent Street, Telegraph Road north to north of Foothill Road; 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; North of Foothill Road from Wells Road to Poli Street; North of Main Street from Seward Avenue to Highway 33 (including entire Ventura Avenue area)

Carolyn Potter tries to save her house by putting dirt on a fire on Nye Road in Casitas Springs on Dec. 5, 2017. (Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Carolyn Potter tries to save her house by putting dirt on a fire on Nye Road in Casitas Springs on Dec. 5, 2017. (Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

-Unincorporated Santa Paula: North of Foothill Road from Peck Road to Wells Road including: Wheeler Canyon, Aliso Canyon and Rancho Vista; east of Santa Paula Creek, north of Highway 126, west of Hall Road and south of the Ventura Regional Sanitation.

-Oak View: Boundary of Hwy 33, Creek Road and Hermosa Road

-The entire Community of Casitas Springs.

Ojai: North of Grand Avenue, east of Mercer Avenue, west of Carne Road and south of the Gridley Trail.

-East Ojai Valley: Carne Road east to McAndrew Road, Reeves Road north to Thacher Road

-Upper Ojai Valley - Hwy 150 from Dennison Grade east to Osborne Road and all residences north; Highway 33 at Matilija Canyon.

-Ventura County North Coast Area: Boundary of Highway 33 on the north to Casitas Vista Road, northwest to Highway Highway 150, Highway 150 west to the 101 Freeway and south on the 101 to Emma Wood State Beach.

-East of Santa Paula and north of Highway 126 in the following areas: Timber Canyon Road at Highway 126; Toland Road at Highway 126; and Hall Road at Highway 126.

-All areas of the Ojai east of Highway 33 and north of Highway 150, except for Ojai Valley Community Hospital and the evacuation center at Nordhoff High School (both are under shelter in place orders).

Voluntary evacuations remain in place in areas of Ventura and Fillmore.

A voluntary evacuation is in effect for a portion of Carpinteria as well for all areas from the 5500 block of Casitas Pass Rd. (Highway 192 east to the Santa Barbara County line, include Lillingston Canyon and Cate Mesa, and all addresses north to the county line;  east side of Bailard Avenue from the 101 Freeway; and all areas south of the 101 to the coast and east of Dump Road, including all of the Bates Road and Rincon areas.

Evacuation centers:

-Ventura: Ventura County Fairgrounds at Miners Building, 10 W Harbor Blvd. This includes an animal shelter for all types of animals.

-Ojai: Nordhoff High School, 1401 Maricopa Hwy.

-Oxnard: Oxnard College Gymnasium, 4000 South Rose Ave.

-Santa Paula: Santa Paula Community Center, 530 West Main St.

-Fillmore: Veteran's Memorial Building, 511 2nd Street.

-U.C. Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara Multi Activity Center, 552 University Road.

Road Closures:

-Eastbound Highway 150 from Reeves Road in Ojai to Stonegate Road in Santa Paula

-State Route 33 from Santa Ana Road to Casitas Pass Road

-State Route 33 at Maricopa Highway and Ojai Avenue

 

-Foothill Road at Olive/Cummings/Briggs/Peck/Wells/Highpoint/LaFonda/Skyline/Colina Vista

-Nye Road loop east of Highway 33 (Santa Paula/Ventura area)

-NB Highway 33 from Stanley to Casitas Springs

-SB Highway 33 from Casita Springs to Canada Larga

School closures:

-ACE Charter High School

-Briggs School District

-Conejo Valley Unified School District

-CSU Channel Islands

-Fillmore Unified School District

-Hueneme Elementary School District

-Mesa Union Elementary School District

-Moorpark Unified School District

-Mupu Elementary School District

-Ocean View School District

-Ojai Unified School District

-Oxnard Elementary School District

-Oxnard Union High School District

-Pleasant Valley School District

-Rio Elementary School District

-Saint Anthony's School

-Santa Clara Elementary School District (Santa Paula)

-Santa Paula Unified School District

-Simi Valley Unified School District

-University Preparation Charter School

-VCOE Career Education Center Sites

-VCOE-Operated School Sites and Classrooms

-Ventura Charter School

-Ventura Unified School District

-Moorpark College

-Oxnard College

-Ventura College

-Thomas Aquinas College

Firefighters try to knock down a burning house during the Thomas Fire in Ventura, California on Dec. 5, 2017. (Credit: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Firefighters try to knock down a burning house during the Thomas Fire in Ventura, California on Dec. 5, 2017. (Credit: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)