Thomas fire leaves behind barren ‘moonscape’

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Breaking News – (NEWZ247) Wind gusts that helped push a huge wildfire into Santa Barbara County this weekend was rising weaker Monday, but experts say the week-old Thomas fire still hovers the coastal enclaves of Carpinteria, Summerland, and Montecito.
After watching the fire race west over the Ventura County line and explode to 230,500 acres overnight, firefighters struggled to increase overall containment to 15%.
On Monday fire squads prepared to protect structures in the foothills north of Carpinteria and surrounding areas from a wall of blazes.
The unique east-west orientation of area mountain ranges, along with narrow winding roads, make it very difficult for firefighters to battle the fire’s western flank head-on, officials said. Instead, crews headed to the housing streets in the south-facing foothills to set up distrustful positions.
While crews stage in town to protect homes, a fleet of fixed-wing aircraft will attack flames higher up in the mountains and try to douse the fire directly, Ramirez said.
“Wind was perhaps not the major factor last night to this morning — it’s maybe more the complex terrain, very dry and possibly widespread fuels for the fire and the fact that it’s a pretty large and ongoing fire,” said Robbie Munroe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The fire is in the highest five of California’s largest recent fires. On Sunday, it had surged into the Santa Barbara County foothills, forcing evacuations in the coastal communities of Carpinteria and Montecito.
Smoke from the fire has formed a towering pyrocumulus cloud that is capable of creating its own weather and sudden wind shifts, experts say. The fire has also spread ash and particulate across the region, creating unhealthy air quality from Santa Barbara to Bakersfield.
The smoke has also contributed to hazardous driving conditions by limiting visibility.
“If driving in smoky areas, keep windows rolled up and vents closed,” urged Santa Barbara County’s Twitter account. “If you need air conditioning, make sure you set your system on re-circulate …”
As the fire grew Sunday, containment had dropped from 15% to 10%, authorities said. By Sunday evening, the blaze had scorched 230,000 acres. At least one firefighter was injured during the battle when he fractured his lower leg. The Redding firefighter is in good spirits and is returning home, the Redding Fire Department said in a statement Monday.
The number of structures destroyed stands at 798, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Wind speeds are expected to be on the lower end of what’s been seen over the last week, forecasters say.

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