LOS ANGELES, 11 December (BelTA - Xinhua) - The out-of-control Thomas Fire in Southern California had scorched 230,000 acres (930 square km) by Sunday evening, making it the fifth largest wildfire in modern history of the Golden State.
The blaze, started nearly a week ago near Santa Paula in Ventura County, 110 km northwest of downtown Los Angeles, has spread northward to Santa Barbara County during last weekend due to strong winds.
According to the Ventura County Fire Department, the fire grew by more than 50,000 acres (about 202 square km) on Sunday, triggering new evacuation orders for about 5,000 residents in Santa Barbara County. Meanwhile an additional 30,000 residents were told to prepare to evacuate.
The fire department also warned residents that strong Santa Ana winds, which have been fueling the Southern California wildfires from Santa Barbara to San Diego, will remain through Sunday and gusts are expected to blow at 30-50 miles per hour (50-85 km per hour).
Nearly all of California's 1,000 fire departments will be involved alongside 8,500 firefighters on the front-lines, Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), said at the press conference on Saturday.
He also disclosed that over 700 firefighters from 10 western states, from Alaska to New Mexico, were also on the front-lines of the fire in Southern California.
The Thomas Fire, which is the largest one of the six wildfires raging along the Pacific seashore, is currently threatening structures near Carpinteria of Santa Barbara County, approximately 20 miles (34 km) south of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).
The UCSB decided Sunday to cancel the final-exams-week in response to the fire. However, the campus remains open.
"We are encouraging all students who wish to leave campus to do so," Chancellor Henry Yang wrote in an email to students Sunday afternoon. "Some faculty have already made alternative arrangements instead of the previously scheduled exam, and these arrangements remain in effect."More about Society