Thomas Fire burns 249,500 acres, containment grows to 35% - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Thomas Fire burns 249,500 acres, containment grows to 35%

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UPDATE (4:00 a.m.) - Fire crews at the Thomas Fire are preparing for a major shift in weather conditions Friday night. 

Incident meteorologist Rich Thompson has warned fire officials of strengthening winds heading into the weekend. 

On Thursday, firefighters conducted multiple firing operations in numerous pockets of vegetation in Summerland and Montecito. 

The goal of these firing operations was to allow the fire to slowly and in a controlled fashion up to roadways which should stop the flames from spreading. 

Thursday's back burn saved dozens of homes off of Ortega Ridge and Viola Lane in the Summerland area. 

KSBY News Reporter Fabiola Ramirez is in the foothills of Montecito this morning where flames of the Thomas Fire are visible. 

Watch KSBY News Daybreak 5:00-7:00 a.m. for the latest continuing coverage of the Thomas Fire. 

Fire officials are expected to release new acreage and containment numbers during the 6:00 a.m. hour. 

UPDATE (10:50p.m.) - New evacuation orders have been issued for Ventura County.  A mandatory evacuation order has been made for the area of Sespe Creek to the west, Burson Ranch to the east, the Los Padres Forest boundary to the north and the Fillmore City limits to the south.  

An evacuation advisory has been issued by the City of Fillmore for the areas from Second Street north on Island View, west on Fourth Street to A Street, north to Goodenough Road, and north to Levee. 

UPDATE (7:55p.m.) - A new evacuation advisory has been issued for northeast Fillmore.  Officials have warned residents stretching from the city limits up Island View Street north to 4th Street, down to Woodgrove Road, down hill to A Street and up Goodenough Road north to be ready for official evacuation orders to be issued at any time.  Fire officials say there is a potential threat of fire in the area, but the orders are currently only an evacuation advisory. 

UPDATE (6:05 p.m.) - As of Thursday evening, the Thomas Fire has burned 249,500 acres and is 35 percent contained.

At the Thursday evening press briefing, fire officials said there was a significant increase in fire behavior above Fillmore. They said the fire is still challenging in that area and flames are moving toward the Sespe drainage. They are concerned about where the fire is going because it is getting into difficult terrain.

The Rose Valley was another challenge for firefighters on Thursday. They said crews were currently conducting a firing operation in that area.

Plans to contain the fire in Santa Barbara County are working well, fire officials said. However, the terrain is "terribly difficult" in that area. Combining the "A" and "B" plans fire officials explained on Wednesday, firefighters are simultaneously holding the bottom portion of the fire line at its current location, while allowing it to burn ahead in other areas where the terrain does not allow them to put firefighters on the ground. 

Plan "C" for Santa Barbara County is to conduct major firing operations to try to prevent the flames from reaching homes in the Carpinteria, Montecito and Santa Barbara area, but fire officials said that don't anticipate that happening at this time.

Dry, windy weather is a concern for firefighters over the next few days.

The cost to fight the fire so far has reached an estimated $82 million. 

There are approximately 8,300 firefighters assigned to the fire.

Fire officials said a Serious Accident  Review Team had been assigned to investigate the death Thursday of firefighter Cory Iverson. The 32-year-old CAL FIRE Engineer from San Diego reportedly died in an area of the fire north of the town of Fillmore.

UPDATE (5 p.m.) - In a town hall meeting at San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara Thursday afternoon, fire officials said the fire is not moving fast and it's creeping just under the retardant line.

The flames are heading toward the San Ysidro Canyon area above downtown Montecito.

Firefighters say they are continuing with their plan of direct attack which is Plan A of their four-option strategy. They say they are having good results with fire retardant lines and hand lines are going in near the Zaca Fire burn scar of 2007.

A firing operation is also scheduled off Highway 33 on the Ventura side.

But overall, fire officials say Thursday was tough.

"Today we have not had the weather for air tankers but we've had some good positive effects with heavy helicopters which can fly under the smoke and they are filling from the mobile retardant base at the base off 154," said Battalion Chief Chris Childers, Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Mandatory evacuation orders on the eastern side of the fire in Carpinteria are expected to change in the next day or so to allow more people to go back home.

It's also important to keep in mind that if you are in an evacuation warning area, you should be ready for it to change to a mandatory evacuation order at a moment's notice.

The California Highway Patrol also wanted to remind those in the area that Highway 154 is closed daily from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. until further notice for fire crews in the area.

Santa Barbara County Public Health announced that trucks are set to go into neighborhoods affected by the Thomas Fire to clean up the ash.

UPDATE (1:55 p.m.) - In Ventura County, evacuation orders and warnings related to the Thomas Fire for the Matilija Canyon area from Highway 33 west on Matilija Canyon Road and the area surrounding Matilija Lake have been lifted.

UPDATE (12:35 p.m.) - A CAL FIRE Engineer from San Diego has died while fighting the Thomas Fire. No details on the circumstances surrounding his death or his name have yet been released.

UPDATE (11:35 a.m.) - According to the Ventura County Fire Department, the expected containment date for the Thomas Fire is Jan. 7.

UPDATE (11:15 a.m.) - A community meeting about the Thomas Fire will again be held today at 4 p.m. at San Marcos High School located at 4750 Hollister Avenue in Santa Barbara. Representatives from the various agencies working on the fire will provide the latest updates and answer questions. Fire officials say these community meetings will continue daily until further notice.

For people in the Ojai area, a community meeting will be held at 5 p.m. today at Summit Elementary School located at 12525 N. Ojai Road.

For people in the Fillmore area, a community meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. at Fillmore Middle School located at 543 A Street.

UPDATE (8:00 a.m.) - CAL FIRE says the majority of the fire growth will occur to the west. Firefighters will continue focusing on structure protection while also working to establish containment lines where possible. The fire is expected to continue growing due to increasing winds fanning the flames. 

Fire officials published the latest map of the Thomas Fire with past burn scars represented in various colors. 

The Thomas Fire is now burning into the Zaca Fire burn area from 2007. 

The Thomas Fire surpassed the Zaca Fire as the fourth largest wildfire in recorded state history. 

The Zaca Fire burned over 240,000 acres. 

The Thomas Fire has burned 242,500 acres. 

The Thomas Fire is now the fourth largest wildfire in recorded California state history.

By Thursday morning, CAL FIRE announced the blaze had burned 242,500 acres and remained 30 percent contained. About 972 structures have been destroyed by the fire since it broke out in the Santa Paula area December 4. More than 200 others have been damaged. 

Highway 154 is closed to traffic from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. for the foreseeable future as the highway will be utilized for fire operations.

Following the closure, CHP asks drivers to avoid Highway 154 during the rest of the day and use Highway 101 as a detour.

Fire officials outline 'strategic plan' to contain Thomas Fire

Wednesday evening, evacuation warnings and orders were lifted for a portion of Ventura County. Others remain in effect for the Montecito and Carpinteria areas.

N95 mask distribution centers for Thursday

There are now more than 8,100 personnel assigned to the fire. 

The cause remains under investigation. 

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