Thomas Fire burns 231,700 acres, containment grows to 20% - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Thomas Fire burns 231,700 acres, containment grows to 20%

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UPDATE (2:15 a.m.) - Follow our coverage at this link as the Thomas Fire continues to change.  

UPDATE (10:40 p.m.) - KSBY News' Kelsey McFarland reports from Carpinteria High School:

UPDATE (6:15 p.m.) - As of Monday evening, the Thomas Fire has burned 231,700 acres and is 20 percent contained.

At a Monday evening briefing, fire officials said they had a successful day on the fire lines, particularly in the Ventura area and along Highways 101 and 33. Firefighters continue to face a challenge in the Fillmore area and the community remains threatened. 

In the Santa Barbara area, fire officials say fire behavior has moderated. The fire is burning along the ridge lines in Carpinteria, but fire crews are able to reach that area on the ground and helicopters are making water drops there while air tankers drop retardant.

While structure damage assessment continues on a daily basis, fire officials say 868 structures in both Ventura and Santa Barbara counties have been destroyed so far.

Close to 7,000 fire personnel have been assigned to the fire. A new camp for firefighter support was being set up at Cachuma Lake.

Fire officials say the cost to fight the Thomas Fire has so far totaled about $48 million.

UPDATE (4:50 p.m.) - Evacuation orders and warnings in the City of Ventura have been lifted with the exception of the areas north of Foothill Road from Day Road to Kimball Road.

UPDATE (4:35 p.m.) - At a community meeting in Santa Barbara on Monday afternoon, fire officials said the Thomas Fire has slowed down and the improved weather conditions have been helpful.

They said the fire did grow a little bit on Monday and continues to burn west, but there was no repeat of the heavy easterly winds that fanned the fire over the previous few days.

Since the fire started, 100,000 people have been placed under evacuation orders. Fire officials said they had 85 fire engines in the Carpinteria and Montecito areas stationed around homes for structure protection.

Firefighters are expected to provide an additional update at a 6 p.m. press briefing.

UPDATE (2:30 p.m.) - A community meeting about the Thomas Fire is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 11 at the San Marcos High School Auditorium located at 4750 Hollister Avenue in Santa Barbara. Fire officials will provide an update on the fire, including information on evacuations and air quality.

UPDATE (12:20 p.m.) - Firefighters say their goal Monday as they battle the Thomas Fire is to keep the fire away from homes in the Montecito, Carpinteria and Santa Barbara areas.

Approximately 6,400 fire personnel are currently assigned to the fire with more coming every day. They include firefighters from 11 other states.

On Monday, 27 water-dropping helicopters were assigned to the fire. Fire officials say the helicopters can fly for seven hours a day and have dropped approximately 1.7 million gallons of water on the fire to date. 

The helicopters were mostly working in the southern Santa Barbara County area while air tankers were being used on the east side of the fire in the rugged area near Fillmore.

CAL FIRE announced Monday morning that the Thomas Fire burning in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties grew just 500 acres overnight, bringing the total acres burned to 230,500. 

While flames could be seen making their way down hillsides in the Carpinteria area overnight, fire officials said containment has increased back up to 15 percent. 

Nearly 6,400 firefighters are still battling the flames and fire officials say close to 800 structures have been destroyed. One firefighter reportedly sustained a leg injury Sunday. 

Despite the increased containment, evacuation warnings and orders remain in effect for portions of southern Santa Barbara County. 

More than 94,000 people have been forced from their homes since the fire broke out the evening of December 5 in Santa Paula and approximately 18,000 structures remain threatened. 

Sunday, smoke and ash were affecting all of Santa Barbara County and even portions of San Luis Obispo County.

Because of this, masks will be distributed again Monday in Lompoc, Goleta, Santa Barbara, and Carpinteria. SLO County Public Health officials say the air quality in that county is not a health risk at this time. 

A large majority of schools in Santa Barbara County have also announced closures for Monday and some for the entire week. 

The cause remains under investigation. 

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