By CHRISTOPHER WEBER
LOS ANGELES (AP) – An effective flare-up on the western edge of Southern California’s largest and most destructive wildfire sent out citizens running away Sunday, as wind-fanned flames churned through old-growth brush in canyons and along hillsides toward seaside towns.
Teams with aid from a fleet water-dropping airplanes and helicopters saved houses as unforeseeable gusts sent out the blaze deeper into property foothill areas northwest of Los Angeles that have not burned in decades. New evacuations were ordered as the fire sent up an enormous plume near Montecito and Carpinteria, seaside locations in Santa Barbara County that had actually been under fire hazard for days and were now choked with smoke.
“The winds are sort of squirrely right now,” stated county fire spokesman Mike Eliason. “Some locations the smoke is going straight up in the air, and others it’s blowing sideways. Depend upon what canyon we’re in.”
The department published an image of one home swallowed up in flames. It’s uncertain whether other structures burned. Thousands of houses and companies in the county lacked power.
The air thick with acrid smoke, even residents of areas not under evacuation orders seized the day to leave, fearing another shutdown of U.S. 101, an essential coastal highway that was closed intermittently recently. Officials handed out masks to locals who stayed behind in Montecito, the wealthy hillside enclave that’s home to stars such as Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bridges and Rob Lowe.
“Our home is under risk of being burned,” Ellen DeGeneres tweeted at midday Sunday. “We simply needed to evacuate our family pets. I’m wishing everybody in our neighborhood and thankful to all the amazing firefighters.”
A few miles to the west, Santa Barbara Zoo was closed to the general public and its 500 animals restricted to their night quarters throughout the day. The zoo was simply outside the evacuation location, but smoke and ash blew through the 30-acre home.
Firefighters made substantial progress Saturday on other fronts of the enormous fire that started Dec. 4 in neighboring Ventura County. As containment increased on other major blazes in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego counties, resources from those fires were diverted to the Santa Barbara foothills.
Forecasters said Santa Ana winds that whipped fires across the area last week would continue in some areas a minimum of through Monday.
An absence of rain has authorities on edge statewide because of parched conditions and no end in sight to the common fire season.
“This is the brand-new regular,” Gov. Jerry Brown alerted Saturday after surveying damage from the deadly Ventura fire. “We’re about ready to have firefighting at Christmas. This is very odd and unusual.”
High fire risk is anticipated to last into January and the governor and professionals stated climate change is making it a year-round hazard.
Overall, the fires have actually destroyed about 800 houses and other structures, eliminated lots of horses and required more than 200,000 individuals to leave flames that have actually burned over 270 square miles (700 square kilometers) considering that Dec. 4. One death, up until now, a 70-year-old female who crashed her car on an evacuation route, is credited to the fire in Santa Paula, a little city where the fire started.
The Ventura County blaze also continued to burn into rugged mountains in the Los Padres National Park near the little town of Ojai and towards a protect developed for threatened California condors.
Ojai experienced dangerous levels of smoke at times and officials alerted of unhealthy air for big swaths of the region. The South Coast Air Quality Management District advised residents to remain indoors if possible and avoid vigorous outside activities.
As fires burned in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, firefighters were already in place north of San Diego on Thursday when a significant fire appeared and quickly spread out in the Fallbrook location, known for its avocado groves and horse stables in the rolling hills.
The fire swept through the San Luis Rey Training Center, where it eliminated more than 40 elite thoroughbreds and damaged more than 100 houses – the majority of them in a retirement home. Three people were burned trying to get away the fire that continued to smolder Sunday.
The majority of recently’s fires remained in places that burned in the past, including one in the ritzy Los Angeles neighborhood of Bel-Air that burned 6 houses and another in the city’s rugged foothills above the community of Sylmar and in Santa Paula.
Associated Press authors Elliot Spagat in Fallbrook and Brian Melley and Robert Jablon in Los Angeles added to this report.
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