The Thomas fire in southern California has gotten so huge that as of Thursday morning there were no open routes between Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. At 4 a.m., the 101 Freeway between Routes 126 and 150 was closed.
The Thomas fire, which was only 5% contained, ranged over 10 miles, from Santa Paula all the way west to the Pacific Ocean; it had already burned 90,000 acres.
As Ojai, Carpenteria and Fillmore were threatened, officials issued evacuation orders in Ojai Valley by way of an emergency cellphone alert. Authorities said they were helping residents of five assisted-living facilities evacuate, while people at Ojai Hospital were advised to shelter in place.
According to Rich Thompson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, Santa Ana winds would increase on Thursday. The winds are expected to reach 80 mph; Cal Fire warned of an “extreme” increase in fire potential stretching south toward San Diego.
Winds were expected to be stronger on Thursday; Ventura County Sheriff’s Capt. Garo Kuredjian, noting that the fire was on the north and east sides of Highway 150 and on the west side of Highway 33, said, “It’s a weird wind pattern.” 1,100 personnel have been fighting the fire.
Officials said their main challenge was to prevent the fire from pouring into the Ojai Valley.
State fire chief Ken Pimlott warned, “We are in the beginning of a protracted wind event. There will be no ability to fight fire in these kinds of winds. At the end of the day, we need everyone in the public to listen and pay attention. This is not ‘watch the news and go about your day.’ This is pay attention minute-by-minute … keep your head on a swivel.”
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency. Winds are expected to die down on Friday.
Meanwhile, a fire in Bel-Air closed the 405 Freeway on Wednesday, while other fires raged in the Angeles National Forest near Sylmar and another in the Santa Clarita Valley.