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The Thomas Fire saw rapid westward growth overnight into Sunday morning.

Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire

The Thomas Fire saw rapid westward growth overnight into Sunday morning.


Mandatory Evacuations Issued Through Northern Montecito and Carpinteria Sunday Morning

Evacuation Orders Continue to Move Westward for Area North of Highway 192


[Update: Sunday, 6:31 a.m.] Residents as far west as Buena Vista Drive and north of Highway 192 are being told to evacuate now. This area is under a mandatory evacuation order as of 6:13 a.m. Additionally, those areas south of Highway 192 and east of San Ysidro Road are now under an evacuation warning. Residents in the evacuation warning area “should be prepared to leave in a moment’s notice,” according to the sheriff’s office.

[Update: Sunday, 3:06 a.m.] Following a brief power outage across the South Coast around 1:30 a.m., at 2:19 a.m., mobile phones across the region issued an Emergency Alert, declaring a “Civil Emergency in this area until 2:34 a.m. PST Evacuate Now SBCOEM.” SBCOEM refers to Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management, who later clarified the evacuation order to be for the northern reaches of Carpinteria only: “The evacuation is for area North of 192 east of Toro Canyon to county line. Leave now.”

This map outlines the areas under evacuation as of 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 19. Orange areas are under a mandatory evacuation order, while voluntary evacuation areas are in yellow. Click on the brackets in the top-right corner of the map to enlarge it.

The area to the north of Highway 192 and east of Toro Canyon had been under an evacuation warning since conditions improved early on Friday morning, but gusty winds along mountain ridges and significant “spotting” of the Thomas Fire have brought this area under a mandatory evacuation order at this time.

Kevin Donoghue, a public information office with the Thomas Fire Incident Command and a resident of Carpinteria, said that “Residents can now see significant fire in the area of Highway 150. He added “There is now a precautionary advisory for all of Carpinteria, which came from Incident Command.” A precautionary advisory refers to a voluntary evacuation warning. Donoghue said that residents living south of Highway 192 and to the east of Carpinteria High School should be prepared to evacuate if ordered. Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management said this morning that “The rest of the City of Carp is under Advisory. Be prepared.”

By Paul Wellman

Thomas Fire as seen from Bailard Ave. in Carpinteria early Sunday morning (Dec. 10, 2017)

[Original story: 8:16 p.m.] Now that the Thomas Fire has breached the Santa Barbara County line ― a development that incident commanders said they predicted and are not worrying over ― residents of Carpinteria and Summerland should expect to see smoke and flames on distant hillsides tonight and through the morning, officials warned, but the blaze “will seem closer than it actually is.”

The Thomas Fire officially entered Santa Barbara County on Saturday afternoon near Divide Peak in the Los Padres National Forest. It moved in a westerly direction but remained well north of the City of Carpinteria, where evacuation orders have been downgraded from mandatory to voluntary (except for Rincon Point).

Thomas Fire burning in the foothills as seen from State Route 192 (Dec. 10, 2017)
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Thomas Fire burning in the foothills as seen from State Route 192 (Dec. 10, 2017)

Over the last four or so hours the six-day-old fire expanded from 148,000 acres to 155,000 acres. Containment remains at 15 percent. The number of destroyed structures was updated from 537 to 710; another 163 buildings have been damaged. More than 4,435 personnel are now battling the fire, and 88,407 residents have been evacuated. Costs have surpassed $25 million.

Weather service officials said they expect 10-25 mph Santa Ana winds to blow in a north-northeast direction this evening with gusts up to 35 mph. If those predictions hold true, the fire would be pushed deeper into the Sespe Wilderness and away from populated areas.

Thomas Fire burning in the foothills as seen from State Route 192 (Dec. 10, 2017)
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Thomas Fire burning in the foothills as seen from State Route 192 (Dec. 10, 2017)

The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning for Santa Barbara County mountain areas from 6 p.m. Saturday to 9 a.m. Sunday. Relative humidity will bottom out at 3 to 10 percent and any new “ignition” would have the potential for “very rapid spread” and “extreme fire behavior.” Santa Barbara’s Office of Emergency Management advised county residents to be prepared to evacuate in the event of a new incident or if Thomas Fire conditions change. “If you feel the need to evacuate under the voluntary evacuations for any reason, please do so,” a department notice stated. “It would be prudent for everyone to keep your phones charged, or to have a backup battery around,” said County Fire spokesperson Mike Eliason.

Residents can register to receive emergency alerts by visiting the Santa Barbara County Aware & Prepare website.

Sporadic power outages continue to affect parts of the South Coast as the fire threatens Southern California Edison transmission lines that travel up from Los Angeles, through Ventura, and into Santa Barbara. Intermittent flickering and other “minimal interruptions” are due to “voltage changes” and Edison’s ongoing “rerouting efforts,” said spokesperson Mary Ann Milbourn. “It’s all part of managing the system,” she said.

Edison’s main 220-kilovolt transmission lines that supply Santa Barbara with the vast majority of its electricity remain operational, Milbourn explained. If they were to fail, Edison could reroute power to other, smaller transmission lines, but those backups are incapable of delivering the same electrical load. Santa Barbara’s contingency options are limited, sitting as it does at the very end of Edison’s transmission line. “We just don’t have as many choices as we do in other parts of the territory where there’s a larger grid and other ways to get around things,” said Milbourn. Edison has no immediate plans for an outage. “We’re monitoring the lines, and we’re keeping an eye on the fire,” said Milbourn. “But we can’t promise that nothing will happen, because we really are at the mercy of Mother Nature.”

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