In its fifth day, the battle against the 223-square-mile Thomas Fire – which forced the evacuation of more than 87,000 people in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties – was aided by more moderate weather Friday, authorities said.
The blaze first broke out late Monday in the Santa Paula area before being swept by Santa Ana winds toward the city of Ventura, and later, north toward Santa Barbara County and the coastline as well as toward the Fillmore area.
On Friday, winds were milder and allowed more helicopters and air tankers to drop water and fire retardant, according to am afternoon news release from Cal Fire.
Some evacuation orders were lifted Friday. Fire officials announced the following, effective as of 4 p.m.:
- City of Ventura: All mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders have been lifted in the city of Ventura with the exception of the area north of West Main Street and east of State Route 33, commonly known as Ventura Avenue, and all neighborhoods North of Poli and Foothill Road
- City of Santa Paula: All mandatory evacuation orders have been lifted in the city of Santa Paula for the areas North of State Route 126 from the west end of the city east to Willard Road and north to Bridge Road.
- Unincorporated Areas between Ventura and Santa Paula: All mandatory evacuation orders have been lifted north of Foothill Road from Santa Paula to Kimball Road in Ventura.
Firefighting efforts had been complicated by changing wind directions, and the 143,000-acre wildfire was still just 10 percent contained by Friday evening.
The fire is threatening 15,000 structures and has already destroyed 400 and damaged 81, officials said Friday morning. At the latest news conference, which was held 6 p.m. Friday, authorities said the fire had destroyed about 158 single-family homes in the city of Ventura and damaged approximately 104 residences.
The night before, fire officials said the blaze had destroyed nearly 440 structures, with over 400 in just Ventura alone.
It is still unclear how many of these buildings are homes, and authorities emphasized they’re still in the process of surveying the damage.
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