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California Wildfires Force New Evacuations

  • VOA News

Firefighters knock down flames as they advance on homes atop Shepherd Mesa Road in Carpinteria, California, Dec. 10, 2017. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department/Handout via Reuters)

New evacuations were ordered in Santa Barbara county in Southern California Sunday morning as the largest wildfire currently burning in the state threatened a number of coastal towns.

Residents of Carpinteria and Montecito were ordered to evacuate early Sunday, as the Thomas fire spread further toward the city of Santa Barbara, about 160 kilometers west of Los Angeles.

More than 88,000 people have been evacuated because of the Thomas Fire, which the state's fire agency said was 15 percent contained by Saturday night.

Debris and rubble remain where the house of Ventura Country Sheriff Commander Dave Murray once stood in Ventura, California, Dec. 8, 2017.
Debris and rubble remain where the house of Ventura Country Sheriff Commander Dave Murray once stood in Ventura, California, Dec. 8, 2017.

Nearly a half dozen fires burned across Southern California over the past week, burning more than 670 square kilometers since Monday. New fires keep erupting in dry conditions, though, and are being stoked by relentless westward Santa Ana winds, which are expected to gust up to 80 kilometers per hour (50 mph) on Sunday.

State of emergency

President Donald Trump responded to the fires Friday by issuing a federal declaration of a state of emergency for California, paving the way for federal agencies to help coordinate relief efforts.

An aircraft drops fire retardant as firefighters take advantage of light winds to attack the Lilac Fire, a fast-moving wildfire in Bonsall, California, Dec. 8, 2017.
An aircraft drops fire retardant as firefighters take advantage of light winds to attack the Lilac Fire, a fast-moving wildfire in Bonsall, California, Dec. 8, 2017.

Fires are not uncommon in Southern California this time of year, before the winter rains set in, when the vegetation is tinder dry and winds blast the region. This year, however, has been particularly bad for California fires because of dry, hot and windy conditions that would be extreme for any season, including the winter season that is just two weeks away.

Just weeks ago, wildfires that broke out in Northern California killed 44 people and destroyed 8,900 homes and other buildings.​

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