Santa Barbara now under threat from wildfire as massive inferno spreads and thousands flee under new evacuation orders

Santa Barbara now under threat from wildfire as massive inferno spreads and thousands flee under new evacuation orders

  • The massive Thomas Fire has spread to 173,000 acres and could be the among worst in California’s history
  • Western edge of fire spread towards Santa Barbara Saturday night and is encroaching on nearby Carpinteria
  • The voluntary evacuation zone now extends within just two miles from the Santa Barbara Zoo
  • Seaside city of Carpinteria with population of 13,000 under new evacuation orders as flames march on 

A flare-up on the western edge of Southern California’s largest and most destructive wildfire sent residents fleeing Sunday, as wind-fanned flames churned through canyons and down hillsides toward coastal towns.

The so-called Thomas Fire is only 15 percent contained, now threatening the city of Santa Barbara and the nearby coastal town of Carpinteria, and is on track to become one of the worst wildfires in California history.

It has already destroyed 583 structures and scorched 173,000 acres, the authorities say. New evacuations were ordered in Carpinteria, which been under fire threat for days.

The new evacuation zone extends within two miles of the Santa Barbara Zoo.

Zoo Director Nancy McToldridge said in a statement that there was ‘no immediate danger’ from the fire and that the zoo was closed with all animals inside to shelter from smoke.

‘We drill for and are prepared for emergencies,’ she said, adding that an evacuation plan for the animals was in place if needed.

Meanwhile, crews with help from water-dropping aircraft saved several homes as unpredictable gusts sent the blaze churning deeper into foothill areas northwest of Los Angeles that haven’t burned in decades.

Santa Barbara County firefighters work on structure protection early Sunday morning, keeping a close eye on nearby flames atop Shepard Mesa Road in Carpinteria, California. The area has been evacuated by law enforcement

Santa Barbara County firefighters work on structure protection early Sunday morning, keeping a close eye on nearby flames atop Shepard Mesa Road in Carpinteria, California. The area has been evacuated by law enforcement

Firefighters knock down flames as they advance on homes atop Shepherd Mesa Road early Sunday in Carpinteria, California. A flare-up on the western edge of Southern California's largest and most destructive wildfire sent residents fleeing

Firefighters knock down flames as they advance on homes atop Shepherd Mesa Road early Sunday in Carpinteria, California. A flare-up on the western edge of Southern California’s largest and most destructive wildfire sent residents fleeing

Flames are seen approaching Carpinteria early Sunday. Crews with help from water-dropping aircraft saved several homes as unpredictable gusts sent the blaze churning deeper into areas northwest of Los Angeles that haven't burned in decades

Flames are seen approaching Carpinteria early Sunday. Crews with help from water-dropping aircraft saved several homes as unpredictable gusts sent the blaze churning deeper into areas northwest of Los Angeles that haven’t burned in decades

The massive Thomas Fire (top left) has burned 173,000 acres and is quickly encroaching on Carpinteria and Santa Barbara

The massive Thomas Fire (top left) has burned 173,000 acres and is quickly encroaching on Carpinteria and Santa Barbara

This map shows the new mandatory evacuation zones in red and voluntary evacuation zones in yellow. The voluntary evacuation zone extends within two miles of the Santa Barbara Zoo, which shut down and is taking emergency precautions

This map shows the new mandatory evacuation zones in red and voluntary evacuation zones in yellow. The voluntary evacuation zone extends within two miles of the Santa Barbara Zoo, which shut down and is taking emergency precautions

‘The winds are kind of squirrely right now,’ said Santa Barbara County fire spokesman Mike Eliason. ‘Some places the smoke is going straight up in the air, and others it’s blowing sideways. Depends on what canyon we’re in.’

The department posted a photo of one residence engulfed in flames before dawn. It’s unclear whether other structures burned. Thousands of homes in the county were without power.

Firefighters made significant progress Saturday on other fronts of the enormous fire that started Dec. 4 in neighboring Ventura County. Containment was way up on other major blazes in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego counties.

Forecasters said Santa Ana winds that whipped fires across the region last week were expected to die down later Sunday – but not before creating possible gusts topping 50 mph…...More Here

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