Thomas Fire: Milder Winds Allow for Increase in Aerial Firefight; Some Evacuation Orders Lifted

In its fifth day, the battle against the 223-square-mile Thomas Fire — which forced the evacuation of more than 87,000 people in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties — was aided by more moderate weather Friday, authorities said.

The Thomas Fire burns trees on December 8, 2017 in the Los Padres National Forest. (Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The blaze first broke out late Monday in the Santa Paula area before being swept by Santa Ana winds toward the city of Ventura, and later, north toward Santa Barbara County and the coastline as well as toward the Fillmore area.

On Friday, winds were milder and allowed more helicopters and air tankers to drop water and fire retardant, according to an afternoon news release from Cal Fire.

Some evacuation orders were lifted Friday. Fire officials announced the following, effective as of 4 p.m.:

Firefighting efforts had been complicated by changing wind directions, and the 143,000-acre wildfire was still just 10 percent contained by Friday evening.

The fire is threatening 15,000 structures and has already destroyed 400 and damaged 81, officials said Friday morning. At the latest news conference, which was held 6 p.m. Friday, authorities said the fire had destroyed about 158 single-family homes in the city of Ventura and damaged approximately 104 residences.

The night before, fire officials said the blaze had destroyed nearly 440 structures, with over 400 in just Ventura alone.

It is still unclear how many of these buildings are homes, and authorities emphasized they're still in the process of surveying the damage.

The number of damaged or destroyed structures could grow, as fire and rescue crews are still assessing the damage.

More than 87,000 people were under an evacuation order, the Ventura County Fire Department said Friday afternoon.

After experiencing wildfires before, one homeowner who lost her Ventura County home told KTLA she didn't expect the Thomas Fire to leave behind so little.

The Thomas Fire burns a hillside behind Lake Casitas near Ventura on Dec. 8, 2017. (Credit: KYLE GRILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)

"When we left, we've been through so many fires before, that [I thought] there be some stuff left. But no, there's nothing," she said, looking over the piles of debris and rubble where her home once was. "And now I'm kicking myself for all the stuff I didn't think to pack. But it happened so quickly."

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown warned residents living in an area near the Santa Barbara-Ventura county line to be "ready to go at a moment's notice" Thursday evening.

The fire — for which Gov. Jerry Brown previously declared states of emergencies in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties — is burning on the north and east sides of the 150 Freeway as well as on the west side of the 33 Freeway, officials said.

President Donald Trump has declared an emergency in the state and has ordered federal assistance from the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for fire relief efforts, the White House announced Friday.

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 made its way to the 101 Freeway just along the coastline near the Ventura-Santa Barbara county line, where thick blankets of smoke and the orange glow of the blaze has made for an eerie scene over the shoreline.

Coastal communities from Ventura to Santa Monica are expected to see heavy clouds of smoke being blown in their direction Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

Local water officials have issued a boil-water advisory for some Ventura County residents due to decreases in water pressure and supply as a result of power outages. Those living in the upper Ojai Valley, Casitas Springs, Foster Park and parts of the city of Ventura should boil water for at least one minute before using it for cooking or drinking.

The Ventura Police Department has issued a curfew beginning at 10 p.m. and ending at 5 a.m., but that order was amended Friday evening.

Just over 3,500 firefighters are battling the blaze, along with 21 helicopters and 544 engines, officials said.

This map from Ventura County officials shows the evacuation zones for the 115,000-acre Thomas Fire on the evening of Dec. 7, 2017.

Mandatory Evacuations for Ventura County (as of Friday morning):

City of Santa Paula - boundary of Bridge Road north to Thomas Aquinas, Dickenson Ranch Road east to Santa Paula Creek

Santa Paula unincorporated area - east of Santa Paula Creek, north of highway 126, west of Hall Road to Timber Canyon Road

City of Ventura - North of Foothill Road from Kimball Road west to Poli Street

City of Ventura - North Poli Street from Hall Canyon west to Cedar Street

 

City of Ventura - north of Main Street from Seaward Avenue to Hwy 33 (includes entire Ventura Avenue area)

A man bicycles past bluffs burned in the Thomas Fire on Dec. 7, 2017, in La Conchita. (Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Oak View - Boundary of Hwy 33 east to Creek Road, Creek Road north to Fairview Road

Meiners Oaks - North of E. El Roblar between Rice Road and Hwy 33

Entire Community of Casitas Springs - Evacuate to Ventura County Fairgrounds - 10 West Harbor Blvd., Ventura

Lake Casitas - north of Hwy 150 heading to Hwy 33 and south of Los Padres National Forest

East Ojai Valley - Carne Road east to Koenigstein Road, SR 150 north to Thacher Road

Ojai - Casitas Pass Road east to Rice Road, Baldwin Road to North of Matilija Canyon (Includes Burnham Road North to Baldwin Road)

Upper Ojai Valley - Hwy 150 from Dennison Grade east to Osborne Road and all residences north

A map tweeted out by Ventura County fire officials shows the progression of the Thomas Fire as of Dec. 8, 2017.

Upper Ojai Valley (West) - Hwy 33 - Matilija Canyon

Unincorporated Ventura County area- residents and day visitors of Rose Vallley

Ventura County North Coast area - boundary of Hwy 33 on the north to Casitas Vista Road, northwest to Hwy 150, Hwy 150 (Casitas Pass Road) west to US 101 and south on US 101 (including Pacific Coast Highway) to Emma Wood State Beach

Unincorporated area of Fillmore - the area of Hall Road to the west, Sespe Creek to the east, Fillmore City limits to the south, and Los Padres National Forest boundary to the north

Mandatory Evacuations for Santa Barbara County (as of 8:30 p.m. Thursday):

Voluntary Evacuations for Ventura County (as of 5:25 a.m. Friday):

City of Ventura - North Hill Road east to Wells Road, Telegraph Road to Foothill Road

Ojai - Casitas Pass Road east to Highway 33, Spring Street to Loma Drive. (Includes Rice Road east to Loma Drive. Baldwin Road north to Besant Road)

Unincorporated area of Fillmore - Sespe Creek to the west, Burson Ranch to the east, Fillmore City limits to the south, and Los Padres National Forest boundary to the north

Voluntary Evacuations for Santa Barbara County (as of 8:30 p.m. Thursday):

Evacuation Shelters:

City of Ventura - Ventura County Fairgrounds (Red Cross - Includes an Animal Shelter for all types of animals)  –

10 W Harbor Blvd, Ventura, CA

City of Ojai - Nordhoff High School - 1401 Maricopa Hwy, Ojai, CA

City of Oxnard - Oxnard College Gymnasium - 4000 S. Rose Ave, Oxnard, CA Open 1

City of Santa Paula - Santa Paula Community Center - 530 W Main St, Santa Paula, CA

UC Santa Barbara - Santa Barbara Multi Activity Center - Includes an Animal Shelter for small animals - preferably in crates, 516 Ocean Road, Santa Barbara, CA

Hard Road Closures:

City of Ventura and nearby unincorporated areas:

City of Fillmore and nearby unincorporated areas:

Santa Paula unincorporated areas:

The train tracks are closed from Carpinteria to Faria Beach and there are no Amtrak services in Ventura County. Over 30 school districts, colleges and individual private schools are closed throughout Ventura County and a full list from county officials can be found here.

KTLA's Melissa Pamer contributed to this article.

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