Thomas Fire Grows to 155,000 Acres, Remains 15% Contained

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The Thomas Fire has burned 155,000 acres, or about 242 square miles, and remained 15 percent contained as it continued to burn its way up the Southern California coast for a sixth day Saturday, officials said.

It remains, by far, the largest of the six massive wildfires that have charred about 175,000 acres of Southern California this week.

Old cars sit amidst a landscaped charred by the Thomas Fire in Ojai on Dec. 8, 2017. (Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images)

Old cars sit amidst a landscaped charred by the Thomas Fire in Ojai on Dec. 8, 2017. (Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images)

Altogether, the large fires have destroyed some 790 structures, Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said in a Saturday news conference.

The U.S. Forest Service closed the Los Padres National Forest Saturday, prohibiting access on the Ojai, Santa Barbara and Mt. Pinos ranger districts.

On Saturday, the Ventura County blaze was transitioning from wind-driven to topography-driven, firefighters said.

The flames first broke out Monday evening and had spread through the Los Padres National Forest nearly into Santa Barbara County by Friday night.

Evacuations orders continued to shift Saturday, with many Ventura residents east of Highway 33 allowed to return home while others near the Santa Barbara County line were told to evacuate.  (Find additional evacuation information below.)

On Saturday, stemming forward progress in the national forest was firefighters' main area of concern, according to Koby Johns, a Fresno Fire Department firefighter assigned to the blaze.

“There’s still a huge volume of fire out there, but we’ve been able to make very good progress on our fire containment lines. So you’re seeing those containment numbers go up a little every single day,” he told KTLA.

The Thomas Fire ranks as the 19th most destructive fire in the state's records. It's the biggest in Southern California since the Bel-Air fire in 1961 torched the homes of the rich and famous.

So far, about 537 structures have been destroyed with more than 100 more damaged, according to firefighters' latest assessment.

Around 15,000 buildings remained under threat in Ventura, Ojai, Casitas Springs, Santa Paula, Carpenteria, Fillmore, Matilija Canyon and other unincorporated areas of Ventura County.

Although firefighters are making good headway on the blaze, California Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci urged residents to remain vigilant to the continued threat.

“Early on we understood this was going to be a siege that was going to be significant throughout the southern basin," he said. "The winds continue to be a concern, and we have been working closely to try to push out preparedness information to the public to be aware that these winds do exist and that means fire danger remains high.”

There has also been one confirmed fatality connected with the fire, a 70-year-old Santa Paula woman who was found dead in her car along an evacuation route. No other injuries have been reported.

A firefighter clears debris from the side of the road in the Los Padres National Forest near Ojai on Dec. 8, 2017. (Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

A firefighter clears debris from the side of the road in the Los Padres National Forest near Ojai on Dec. 8, 2017. (Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Some 4,400 public safety personnel were on scene Saturday working to contain the flames. Firefighting operations have cost a total of $25 million so far, fire officials said.

Gov. Jerry Brown visited the fire area on Saturday to survey damage and delivered an address in which he said such devastating incidents should be considered the "new normal" in California as climate change creates extreme weather conditions. On Friday, the White House approved California's request for federal emergency response funding, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has issued a grant.

Ventura residents under mandatory evacuation orders would be able to return to their homes for the first time Saturday, but only to assess damage.

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., those affected can go to the Temple Beth Torah at 620 Foothill Blvd. with a photo ID to be escorted to their home. Residents will not be allowed to enter alone but will be escorted by a public safety official.

Evacuations are still mandatory for the following areas:
Ventura County
• Santa Paula: Boundary of Bridge Road north to Thomas Aquinas, Dickenson Ranch Road east to east of Santa Paula Creek
• Ventura: North of Foothill Road from Kimball Road west to Poli Street, North Poli Street from Hall Canyon west to Cedar Street
• Casitas Springs: entire community should evacuate to the Ventura County Fairgrounds at 10 West Harbor Blvd. in Ventura
• Lake Casitas: North of Hwy 150 heading to Hwy 33 and south of Los Padres National Forest
• East Ojai Valley: Ojai border east to Koenigstein Road, SR 150 north to north of Thacher Road
• Ojai: unincorporated areas west of Rice Road; Los Encinos Road to Burnham Road, South of State Route 150
• Upper Ojai Valley: Hwy 150 east of Reeves Road, unincorporated areas west of Rice Road, Hwy 33 north of Fairview Drive-Matilija Canyon
• Unincorporated Ventura County: Residents and day visitors of Rose Valley
• Ventura County North Coast: Boundary of Hwy 33 on the north to Casitas Vista Road, northwest to Hwy 150, Hwy 150 (Casitas Pass Road) west to 101 Freeway and south on 101 Freeway (including Pacific Coast Highway) to Emma Wood State Beach
• Santa Paula unincorporated area: East of Santa Paula Creek, north of Highway 126, west of Hall Road to Timber Canyon Road
• Unincorporated Fillmore: 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

Santa Barbara County
• The area of Highway 192 on the south, Highway 150 on the east (county line), Casitas Pass Road to the west and extending north to East Camino Cielo
• Eastside 150 from Rincon Hill Road to Highway 101
• Bates Road
• Camino Carreta
• Rincon Pt Road
• Rincon Pt. Lane
• Buena Fortuna

Evacuations centers are located at:
• Ventura: Ventura County Fairgrounds at Miners Building at 10 W. Harbor Blvd. in Ventura
• Oxnard: Oxnard College Gymnasium at 4000 S. Rose Ave., Oxnard
• Santa Paula: Santa Paula Community Center at 530 W. Main St., Santa Paula
• Santa Barbara: UCSB Recreational Center at 516 Ocean Road, Santa Barbara
• Small and large animals can be taken to the Ventura County Fairgrounds, and small animals can be housed at the UCSB facility

The shelter that had been operating at Nordhoff High School in Ojai was being shuttered.

Find more information at ReadyVenturaCounty.org and CountyofSB.org.

CNN Wire contributed to this report.