Strong Winds Spark Fears Thomas Fire Could Flare Back Up

Thomas Fire

The lack of strong winds has allowed firefighters battling the Thomas fire north of Santa Barbara a few days of respite, but that is all about to change as the fierce winds are expected to return Wednesday and Thursday. For most of the past three days, firefighters had been using the lull in the winds to conduct controlled burns, cut down burned trees and put out still smoldering areas. However, the firefighters are now set to have their hands full again as the ferocious winds that have stoked the fire over the past few weeks come back with a vengeance.

The National Weather Service is predicting that the area’s famous sundowner winds blowing down from the canyons out to the coast will return on Wednesday evening to Thursday morning with gusts that could exceed 40 to 60 miles-per-hour. These winds will surely stoke the Santa Barbara County portion of the fire and once again create dangerous conditions for firefighters and the potential for the blaze to spread rapidly. The situation will then be made worse by the return of the Santa Ana winds on Thursday morning, which will then stoke the Ventura County portion of the fire.

As of Tuesday evening, the Thomas fire had already burned more than 272,000 acres of land—making it the second largest fire in California’s history. Still, the recent lull in winds eventually allowed firefighters battling the blaze to have it more than 55% contained on Tuesday evening, while also giving them several days to prepare in an effort to prevent it from spreading further. The good news is that the firefighters used their time well. Unfortunately, there is simply no way to tell how much the return of the winds will hamper their efforts to keep the blaze further contained.

Despite the precarious conditions caused by the winds and the extremely dry weather, there is still at least some reason to be optimistic that the worst may be over. Already many firefighting crews from across California are being told they are no longer needed as the number of crews battling the blaze shrinks. Even better news was also recently received by thousands of residents who live in the foothills near Santa Barbara, Montecito and Carpinteria, who were told late on Tuesday that they could finally return home.

Many shops and restaurants in the area have also reopened following the lifting of the mandatory evacuation orders and some semblancy of normalcy seems to be finally returning to the area. Nonetheless, many locals remain cautious due to the return of the winds, as if conditions change, they could be forced to flee once again.

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