Santa Barbara is located near the foot of the mountains and locals are often left with no other choice but to immediately retreat when a wildfire erupts.
In the north of Santa Barbara where the wildfire broke out on Dec 4, mountains stretch over 1,200 meters with no place for setting up any separation zone — making it rather difficult for anyone to stay in the vicinity.
Despite the ongoing winter holidays and upcoming celebrations, no one has been seen either along the west coast of the county — known for one of its popular beach resorts.
Hundred and ninety-two roads passing through Santa Barbara have been completely closed down. As of Tuesday morning, only 20 percent of the raging fire was brought under control, according to the local fire department.
But the wall of flames of the Thomas fire on Tuesday afternoon was about 200 yards away from and inching closer to expensive mansions in Montecito, one of the richest communities in the United States.
“It has burned down to some beautiful homes. We are asking residents to have defensible space, have a plan. When we ask you to evacuate it is for your own safety. We have already had one fatality very early on in the fire and we don’t want to lose any more people. I am happy to report that we haven’t had any more civilian injuries or deaths,” said California fire department spokesman Captain Steve Concialdi.
The Thomas fire, which broke out on Dec. 4 near the community of Ojai, has since spread 27 miles to become the fifth largest blaze in state history. It has blackened more than 366 square miles in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, an area larger than New York City.
“It’s pretty devastating. I mean, I’ve lived here for 25 years, been through quite a few fires, and this one I think has surpassed all those other experiences in terms of the devastation and the impact it’s had on the area. And there air, it’s just been phenomenal,” said Frank Palmieri, a bookkeeper from the city.
There’s bad stuff in the air. And, you don’t know what it’s doing to your body, so [I’m] wearing a mask now. But it feels awful, headaches, I get a little nauseous,” said Jamey Geston, a student at Santa Barbara City College.
Officials said that while the conflagration charred another 2,500 acres overnight, a break in the hot, dry Santa Ana winds on Tuesday sapped its forward momentum and allowed crews to prevent further damage to homes.