Crews struggle to keep flames from California neighbourhoods

LOS ANGELES — The fifth largest wildfire in California history expanded, ripping through dry brush atop a coastal ridge while crews struggled to keep flames from roaring down into neighbourhoods amid fears of renewed winds.

Firefighters protected foothill homes northwest of Los Angeles, making progress in residential areas while much of the fire’s growth occurred to the north in unoccupied forest land, Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said Tuesday.

“There were a couple of flare-ups in the hills that put on a light show last night, but they were expected. For now the teams are fighting the fire on their own terms,” he said, adding that shifting winds are always a danger.

Red Flag warnings for fire danger due to Santa Ana winds and a critical lack of moisture were extended into the week, with a possible increase in gusts Thursday into Friday.

Tens of thousands of people remain evacuated, including many from the seaside enclaves of Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria and the inland agricultural town of Fillmore.

Still among evacuees due to smoke Tuesday were Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Eric Burdon and his wife, Marianna, of Ojai. Last week, Burdon wrote on Facebook about having to flee and returning temporarily to find their home still standing with ashes all around.

“A week like this gives you the perspective that life is what truly matters,” he wrote.

A photo accompanying the post showed his handprint and signature written in ashes.

Residents near a Carpinteria avocado orchard said the trees could end up saving their homes.

“You have a thick layer of leaves underneath the bottom and they are watered regularly, so it’s like a sponge,” Jeff Dreyer, who lives nearby, told KEYT-TV. “So the fire gets to the sponge full of water and it slows it down. It takes a long time for it to burn.”

Poor air quality kept dozens of schools closed. As ash rained down and smoke blew through streets, regulators urged people to remain inside if possible and avoid strenuous activity.

Officials handed out masks to those who stayed behind in Montecito, an exclusive community about 75 miles (120 kilometres) from Los Angeles that’s home to stars such as Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bridges and Drew Barrymore. Actor Rob Lowe was among residents who evacuated over the weekend.

The blaze — known as the Thomas Fire — has destroyed more than 680 homes, officials said. It was just partially contained after burning more than 360 square miles (930 square kilometres) of dry brush and timber. The fire has been burning for more than a week.

The fire is in an area of California that has remained in at least moderate drought even after last winter’s powerful rains and heavy mountain snowfall eliminated drought symptoms in much of the rest of the state.

To the north, San Francisco Bay Area firefighters quickly contained blazes Tuesday that destroyed at least two homes in hills east of Oakland — the site of a 1991 firestorm that killed 25 people.

Santa Ana winds have long contributed to some of the region’s most disastrous wildfires. They blow from the inland toward the Pacific Ocean, speeding up as they squeeze through mountain passes and canyons.

The weather service said that if the long-term forecast holds, there will have been 13 consecutive days of dry offshore flow before it ends Friday afternoon. There have only been 17 longer streaks since 1948, including the record of 24 days set between December 1953 and January 1954.

High fire risk is expected to last into January.

 

Just Posted

Liberals win most seats in Election 2019

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau is expected to remain prime minister but the… Continue reading

Union official: Fired Wisconsin school guard gets job back

MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin school district is rehiring a black security… Continue reading

Trump bemoans GOP for not sticking together on impeachment

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump called on fellow Republicans to “get tougher… Continue reading

Quebec man found guilty of first-degree murder in slaying of ex-wife, stranger

ST-JEROME, Que. — A Quebec man was found guilty of first-degree murder… Continue reading

Thunberg interviews leaders for documentary, Alberta Indigenous group says

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg continued her tour… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Tuesday The Small Business Centre at Burman University’s School of Business invites… Continue reading

Liberals win most seats in Election 2019

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau is expected to remain prime minister but the… Continue reading

Catalan independence remains an obstacle for Spanish leaders

The demonstrations, some of them violent, are still going on in Catalonia… Continue reading

West Division playoff race still has no shortage of twists and turns

Finally, some clarity in the muddled West Division playoff picture. The Edmonton… Continue reading

Union official: Fired Wisconsin school guard gets job back

MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin school district is rehiring a black security… Continue reading

Trump bemoans GOP for not sticking together on impeachment

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump called on fellow Republicans to “get tougher… Continue reading

Quebec man found guilty of first-degree murder in slaying of ex-wife, stranger

ST-JEROME, Que. — A Quebec man was found guilty of first-degree murder… Continue reading

Thunberg interviews leaders for documentary, Alberta Indigenous group says

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg continued her tour… Continue reading

Most Read