A brushfire that erupted on Monday evening just after 6 p.m. has now claimed over 150 structures and forced the evacuation of some 27,000 people as it burned 31,000 acres overnight in Ventura County. Tuesday morning, Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen stated the acreage had increased to 45,000 burned. The blaze that first ignited north of Santa Paula near Thomas Aquinas College is expected to continue to grow rapidly with 30 mph gusts forecast in the Ventura area today. The Thomas Fire is currently zero percent contained.
As the conflagration, fanned by gusting Santa Ana winds, swept down from the hills above Ventura late in the night, the city’s emergency alert system sounded along Ventura Avenue. Police cruisers worked through more remote developments, announcing mandatory evacuations by loudspeaker as residents gathered what they could. As of this morning, the fire continues to burn, its southernmost edge less than half a mile from the Pacific Ocean in downtown Ventura.
Initially triggering intermittent blackouts from Malibu to Goleta around 9 p.m. on Monday night, the Thomas Fire damaged Southern California Edison’s regional transmission lines as the fire grew rapidly from 5,000 acres to 10,000 acres. At that point, upward of 263,000 customers were being impacted by the outages. As of this morning, 20,000 customers in Ventura remain without power.
According to Mike Eliason with Santa Barbara County Fire, 14 engines, one helicopter, and multiple battalion chiefs from Santa Barbara County were joining a city battalion chief and two engines, an additional engine from Carpinteria, and multiple from Santa Maria to fight the fire in neighboring Ventura County.