Firefighters in Santa Barbara County are racing to finish containment lines to restrain the Thomas fire before high winds arrive on Friday evening that could push the blaze further west and threaten the city of Santa Barbara itself.
The fire, which is still only 30% contained after more than a week, has already burned 238,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, according to the Los Angeles Times, and could threaten “nearly a quarter million residents and 62,000 structures worth $46 billion” unless its forward progress is stopped in time.
The Times notes:
Across the mountain ridges above Santa Barbara, Summerland and Montecito, firefighters Wednesday were building containment lines, clearing brush, digging breaks and setting small backfires to burn fuel, all in an effort to create barriers to stop the forward march of the fire.
The stakes are high. If the fire moves into Santa Barbara and Montecito, nearly a quarter million residents and 62,000 structures worth $46 billion would be at risk.
If the containment lines cannot be finished in time, firefighters may have to light their own fires to burn the fuel that the Thomas fire might consume, the Times adds, calling it “a risky proposition and a scary sight for residents.”
The local Santa Barbara News-Pressadds that the Thomas fire is moving along canyons, where it is much more difficult to fight due to the steep terrain:
The Thomas fire is continuing its push west through Santa Barbara County, ripping through Toro Canyon above Carpenteria and Romero Canyon north of Summerland.
Burning since Dec. 4 with its origin north of Santa Paula, the fire had burned 236,000 acres as of Tuesday and is expected to exceed the 240,207-acre Zaca Fire of 2007, making it the fourth largest fire in California history, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Crews from several states were trying to hold the blaze above Toro Canyon Road overnight Monday, but were unsuccessful. The plan now is to hold the fire in the mountains for as long as possible, bring it toward Gibraltar Road, construct structure line where possible and push the fire toward the burn scars of the Jesusita Fire of 2009 and Tea Fire of 2010, Santa Barbara County Fire Battalion Chief Chris Childers told community members during a meeting Tuesday at San Marcos High School.
The fire may not be fully contained until Christmas, the News-Press warns.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.
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