LOCAL CALIFORNIA

Multiple fires are raging in Southern California. A series of Santa Ana wind-driven wildfires have destroyed hundreds of structures, forced thousands to flee and smothered the region with smoke in what officials predicted would be a pitched battle for days.

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Ventura fire

As Faria Beach residents assess the danger, firefighters follow Thomas fire toward Santa Barbara County

A train on the Rincon coast passes a burning hillside from the Thomas fire. (Michael Owen Baker / For the Times)
A train on the Rincon coast passes a burning hillside from the Thomas fire. (Michael Owen Baker / For the Times)

Alicia Stratton stood alongside railroad tracks in Faria Beach and watched the flames burn a few hundred feet away. She had evacuated her home about 30 minutes earlier. 

Stratton, 58, lives in Oak View, but her family has a vacation home in Faria Beach.

“This fire kept migrating,” she said. “As soon as the wind picked up, I started to worry.” 

Her neighbor, Charlie McDowell, was eating lunch when the fire picked up momentum in the seaside community. 

“It was right in front of us,” he said, a mask and goggles covering his face. “It’s creeping.”

A few minutes later, firefighters and sheriff’s deputies asked residents along the road to move themselves and their cars away from the fire line. The flames were growing closer and the thick smoke made it hard to see. 

Both said they were “very concerned” about the fate of their neighborhood. 

“It’s an amazing community,” McDowell, 34, said. “I was in L.A. last night and I got a call from neighbors saying they were watering my house.”

Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Rich Macklin said firefighters are concerned that the Thomas fire will push into Santa Barbara County and threaten the city of Carpinteria. 

“We’re going to start moving with it,” he said, adding that about 2,000 firefighters are battling the blaze. 

Crews are concerned about erratic winds near the shore, which are reaching 30 to 40 mph, he said, with gusts of 45 to 50 mph. 

As he spoke, plumes of smoke shifted toward the ocean, obscuring visibility so badly that it was difficult to see a few hundred feet ahead. Distant booms could be heard in the distance — sounds Macklin attributed to “a tank of something releasing.” 

“Here, we had the fire burning toward about 70 to 80 homes,” he said. “We have six strike teams engines in there.” 

The fire in Faria Beach has been knocked down, he said. Aside from the wind, crews faced serious visibility problems and were handling the additional concern of residents who waited until the last minute to leave.

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