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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Fearing that the Thomas fire would reach their community, residents packed the Carpinteria High School gym Thursday night for a town hall with local officials.
Bleachers on both sides of the gym quickly filled for the 8 p.m. event, and residents who couldn’t find a spot on bleachers sat on the gym floor behind a row of television cameras.
Maps of the wildfire’s perimeter were taped to gym mats that hang on the wall, usually there to protect basketball players slamming into them. Signs for the Carpinteria Warriors hung on the walls.
Santa Barbara County fire officials said the Thomas fire, which has burned 115,000 acres since Monday, hadn’t reached the county line as of Thursday evening, but residents should remain prepared in case it does.
Polly Baldwin, medical director at Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, said the air quality in Carpinteria is considered "hazardous."
“Hazardous is the worst classification that air quality has,” she said, urging residents to wear face masks when outside.
After the town hall, residents crowded around a topographical map of the region, asking fire officials questions.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office will continue to update its website with evacuation orders and maps of the affected regions.