'Good News' on the Thomas Fire Lines, All Evacuations Lifted

Gibraltar and Camino Cielo Lines Held Overnight, Suppression Efforts Continue with More Wind Expected

Garth White, with a crew from Bend Oregon City firefighters, works a hose alongside members of Arroyo Grande Hotshots, Santa Lucia Crew Seven and Vandenberg Hotshots working to cut a fire break up steep terrain in Toro Canyon. (Dec. 12, 2017)
Photo Credit: Paul Wellman
By ,

The north winds whipped through the Thomas Fire zone overnight Wednesday, but there was "no fire activity at all," said Captain Dave Zaniboni, the public information officer for Santa Barbara County Fire. For the past three days, fire crews have been putting out any hotspots of smoke or embers along Gibraltar Road and Camino Cielo. Wednesday night would be the "test" for the fire line: "It held, and it's good news," Zaniboni said.

The good news led to an announcement on Thursday morning by the county's Emergency Operations Center (EOC) that all evacuation orders and warnings in the County of Santa Barbara had been lifted. Previously, evacuation areas had extended from Highway 154 through parts of Montecito, which had been immediately threatened by the western edges of the Thomas Fire.

This morning's incident report showed the fire had grown only 200 acres to 272,200 total, though the northeasterly Santa Ana winds are expected to return and dry conditions continue. The fire has burned into the Zaca, Jesusita, and Tea fire footprints, which "Took some steam out of it," Zaniboni said. County Battalion Chief Chris Childers explained at Wednesday's community meeting that the newer growth was less hospitable to fire, especially when retardant was laid on top.

Fire crews are continuing to douse the Santa Barbara side of the enormous fire and build direct lines to confine Thomas to the 2007 Zaca Fire burn. Out toward Ojai, the efforts are concentrated on bringing the Highway 33/Rose Valley side of the fire into the old Day Fire footprint. North of there, the fire is backing slowly into the Sespe Wilderness. More than 5,600 fire personnel remain on the fire; about a thousand have been released back to their home stations.

This morning, postal workers were already out delivering mail that had been held for addresses in the mandatory evacuation areas. Packages will be delivered once the post office has determined people are back in their homes.

In a release on Thursday morning, EOC issued safety guidelines for evacuees returning to their homes:

Once a wildfire has burned through an area, many dangers may remain. Please exercise safety precautions when returning to your home.

If you find any of these conditions:

  1. Fire or other emergencies – stay away and call 911
  2. Damaged utilities – report them to your local utility

More like this story