Residents react as they watch the Thomas Fire burn in the hills above La Conchita at 5 am Thursday morning, 14 December 2017. Photo: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

By Melissa Etehad and Ben Poston
17 December 2017

(Los Angeles Times) – The massive Thomas Fire continued to grow Sunday morning even after an epic battle to protect homes along the Santa Barbara County coast Saturday proved successful despite intense winds.

The third-largest fire in California history was burning a massive swath from Santa Barbara to Ventura, was being fueled by intense Santa Ana winds. On Sunday morning, the San Fernando Valley was being hit by wind gusts topping 70 mph in some mountain areas. The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for canyon and mountain areas.

As of Sunday morning, the fire was at 269,000 acres and 40% contained. CalFire said 18,000 structures were threatened. […]

On Sunday morning, wind gusts topped 70 mph in mountain areas in the fire zone and 50 mph on the coast in Ventura County, said Kathy Hoxsie, meteorologist with National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Winds are expected to calm down Monday and Tuesday to 10 to 20 mph, which will “look tranquil” compared with the weekend gusts, Hoxsie said.

Those calmer conditions should allow firefighters to focus on more defensive work like bulldozing fire lines and dropping fire retardant. The humidity levels should also increase during the early part of the week — another help for fire crews, Hoxsie said.

But it will be a short respite, as strong winds and low humidity are expected to return on Wednesday in Santa Barbara County and Thursday in Ventura County, Hoxsie said. […]

“This is the worst fire condition I’ve seen in the last 32 years,” said Capt. Dave Zaniboni, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. “It could have been a lot worse. We could have easily lost firefighters or had more homes destroyed. It was a great effort by firefighters.” [more]

Thomas Fire continues to grow as strong, shifting winds bring new dangers

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