As fire spread up to the eastern edge of Santa Barbara, and looped around to the north, Los Angeles-area firefighters joined personnel from as far away as Montana in the response.
At midday, the Thomas Fire had burned 173,000 acres, and had split onto two forks in an uncontrolled move west into the Santa Barbara foothills, and northwest towards Lake Cachuma.
Winds were not spreading the fire east or south towards Los Angeles County.
CalFire officials told KEYT television in Santa Barbara that the Thomas Fire had destroyed 754 buildings in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties as of midday Sunday. Another 162 structures were damaged, with both totals certain to increase as damage assessment efforts continued.
Some 88,000 evacuees have left the area, many east on the 101 Freeway to friends or family in the Southland. Traffic on the coastal route was flowing Sunday, although fire has scorched houses along the freeway east of Carpinteria and west of Ventura.
In Los Angeles County, the Skirball, Creek and Rye fires were winding down Sunday, and some of the fire trucks, personnel and support equipment from those blazes was flowing west to Ventura and Santa Barbara.
A Hiroshima-like cloud of smoke rose from the fire front, visible from Los Angeles County, at sunrise Sunday. The situation was dire in the foothills north of Highway 192, parallel to and north of the 101 Freeway.
Houses on the northern fringe of Carpinteria and Montecito were burning.
Thirty fire helicopters and six airplanes were at the Thomas Fire, many of them from Southland fire agencies. A squadron of four fire choppers was observed flying in formation down the coast towards Santa Monica on Saturday.
Two strike teams from the City of Los Angeles were at the Thomas Fire Sunday, and units and firefighters from Beverly Hills, Culver City and Santa Monica were in that joint effort. That mutual aid began last Tuesday, a spokeswoman said.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department had seven strike teams assigned to the Thomas Fire. In all, at least 100 fire department personnel were there, including bulldozer operators and inmate crews.
“We’re in the process (now) of taking off (firefighters) from the Creek fire and Rye fire, as they wind down, and re-allocating them to the Thomas fire,” said county fire dispatcher Ed Pickett. He said that process will take place all day Sunday.
The Orange County Fire Authority sent one strike team, with five engine companies, to the Thomas fire when it first began. No new resources going to the fire now.
Among the troops sent from Orange County to Santa Barbara was OCFA Capt. Steve Concialdi, who is serving as press information officer for the unified command. He told KEYT-TV Sunday that obeying evacuation orders was crucial.
“We tried to by sympathetic and allowed residents (of one area north of Carpinteria) to come back in, and then we had to evacuate them again,” Concialdi said.
–City News Service
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