Firefighters work the Thomas Fire Saturday. (Dec. 16, 2017)
Paul Wellman

The Thomas Fire sparked near Thomas Aquinas College 15 days ago, and it continues to burn in its own quiet way.

As of Tuesday morning, the blaze had ravaged 271,750 acres — just a 750-acre increase from yesterday — in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, coming dangerously close to knocking down the records for the two largest wildfires in state history. The largest fire, the 2003 Cedar Fire in San Diego, had razed 273,246 acres by the time firefighters contained it.

Things are looking up for the 8,094 firefighters battling the Thomas Fire, though. The fire is now at 50 percent containment.

At noon on Tuesday, the county lifted evacuation orders north of Highway 192, between Ladera and Craven Lanes, and changed an evacuation order for the area north of Highway 192 between Highway 154 and East Ontare Road to a warning. In the morning, they also rescinded evacuation orders for Coast Village Road in Montecito.

On Monday, evacuation warnings were lifted for thousands of people living in and around downtown Santa Barbara. The county also downgraded mandatory evacuation orders to warnings in Summerland, between Highway 192 and Hot Springs and Olive Mill Roads.

Incident commanders are taking advantage of the break in winds to manage the fire line and keep flames from getting any closer to residences.

“The parts of the fire that are facing the Santa Barbara front country above Montecito are looking really good right now,” said Rudy Evenson, a spokesperson for the Thomas Fire Incident information line. “Crews are going along that fire line and sort of making sure that the furthest-forward embers that landed two days ago are totally out.”

Firefighters’ fortunes, however, could change Wednesday night as winds pick up. Gusts up to 45 miles per hour are expected to hit the foothills above Montecito, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Sirard.


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