Horrendous 'Thomas Fire' in California Spreading out of Control in Ventura County
12/6/2017 11:55:12 AM
Arthur J. Villasanta - Fourth Estate Contributor

Ventura County, CA, United States (4E) - California fire fighters are desperately trying to contain a wind-driven wildfire that exploded out of control on the night of Dec. 4 and has since burned 50,000 acres, destroyed some 150 homes and structures and forced 27,000 people to evacuate.

About 3,000 homes have been evacuated. More than 260,000 customers in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties lost power due to the fire. By noon Tuesday, 15,000 homes in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties were without power, said Southern California Edison.

The so-called "Thomas Fire" erupted in Ventura County around and in the cities of Ventura, Ojai and Santa Paula. It began as a small brush fire in the early evening of Dec. 4 north of Santa Paula, near Steckel Park and Thomas Aquinas College (from which it derived its name).

Officials said the Thomas fire is currently the greatest threat to Southern California.

They said the blaze started about 6:25 p.m. Monday in the foothills near Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, a popular hiking destination. It rapidly grew to more than 15 square miles in the hours that followed.

California officials blame the powerful Santa Ana winds for the fire's massive explosion in size after only a few hours. They expect the fire to spread rapidly due to the Santa Ana wind event, said Ventura County Fire Department Captain Stan Ziegler.

He also said they're still seeing "erratic fire behavior and erratic winds so it's making the firefight very difficult."

The wind appeared to be pushing the fire east toward Camarillo and north toward Ojai. Hundreds of firefighters working through the evening of Dec. 5 sought to prevent the terrific blaze from spreading but faced wind gusts of up to 50 mph.

On Tuesday, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency in Ventura County due to the Thomas Fire.

"This fire is very dangerous and spreading rapidly, but we'll continue to attack it with all we've got," said Brown. "It's critical residents stay ready and evacuate immediately if told to do so."

Some 1,000 personnel continued to battle the Thomas fire but had not achieved any containment on the expanding wildfire as of 5:00 p.m. on Dec. 5. Authorities expanded mandatory and voluntary evacuation areas and opened new shelters throughout the Ventura County.

Fire officials said the intensity of the fire, plus the high winds, make it pretty much unstoppable at this point. The dry and powerful Santa Ana winds will continue for at least the next three days, said the National Weather Service.

The Thomas Fire is another tragedy in what is already the worst year on record for wildfires in California. In October, 43 people died and more than 10,000 structures were lost when fires swept through Northern California's wine country.

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