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A map of the Thomas Fire on Friday, December 8.

A map of the Thomas Fire on Friday, December 8.


Friday Morning Update: Thomas Fire Grows to 132,000 Acres

Future Remains Unknown


[Friday, 10 a.m.]: Santa Barbara County Public Health Department announced the following places to pick up N-95 masks until supplies runs out:

• Costco in the Camino Real Marketplace (7095 Marketplace Dr., Goleta), 10 a.m.

• Franklin Community Center (1136 East Montecito St., Santa Barbara), 10 a.m.

• Albertsons in Carpinteria (1018 Casitas Pass Rd., Carpinteria), 10 a.m.

• Montecito (Lower Village, 1400 block of East Valley Rd.), 1 p.m.

Thousands of masks were donated by Direct Relief. The Medical Reserve Corps, a group of health-care professionals who volunteer their time, passed them out at several places throughout Santa Barbara County. According to the county’s public health officials, more than 25,000 masks were distributed on Thursday.

[Friday, 9:30 a.m.]: As of 6:35 a.m. Friday morning, the U.S. Forest Service reported the fire had grown to 132,000 acres and was 10 percent contained. No structures were consumed overnight. The total number of structures destroyed is 439; 85 have been damaged. The encouraging news for this afternoon is that weather forecasters think there’s a possibility the winds could shift, moving in from a southwesterly direction. If so, this could help slow down the Thomas Fire pathway to Carpinteria. However, weather forecasters also predict more northeasterly winds this evening, albeit weaker.

With the winds dying down a little, firefighters can start cutting lines rather than attacking the fire’s flanks, said Forest Service Public Information Officer Andrew Madsen. During extreme wind conditions, he said — winds gusting at 50 miles an hour — that’s not possible. Madsen added that 22 helicopters have been assigned to the Thomas Fire capable of making bucket drops. These, he said, can be more strategically effective than planes dropping lines of the bright-orange fire retardant.

Seven fixed-wing aircraft are also on hand to fight the Thomas Fire. While Cal Fire has been leading the charge to protect new structures from the blaze, the Forest Service has been more focused on the backcountry, where fuel loads have been accumulating for decades. That, coupled with negligible humidity rates and dry, parched soil, has created explosive conditions. But areas denser with vegetation also slow down the fire’s rate of spread. While Forest Service reports indicate the fire will continue to spread toward Santa Barbara County and Carpinteria, Madsen said he took some solace by quieter weather patterns. “Right now the winds are really light on the coast,” he said. “That gives us some cause for optimism.”

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