CARPINTERIA, Calif. (CBSNewYork/CBSNews/AP) – Firefighters battling the wildfires burning across Southern California are finally making some progress, but a new flare-up is forcing more evacuations in Santa Barbara County.
As CBS News’ Kenneth Craig reported, firefighters faced intense flames early Sunday morning as the massive Thomas fire reached the city of Carpinteria. Crews attacked the blaze from the air and the ground, but were unable to save every home.
After almost a week on the lines, firefighters are tiring.
“Talking to the firefighters that have been out here since day one, they say this has been one of the most trying and taxing fires they have ever been on,” said Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni.
With the fire bearing down on Carpinteria, firefighters ordered hundreds more residents out of their homes – many not knowing if their properties will still be standing when they return.
“This road divides from mandatory to voluntary,” resident Christin Hampton said.
She and Carter Hampton live just outside the mandatory evacuation area.
“Apocalyptic,” said Carter. “That’s a good word.”
“It’s a big fire,” added Christin. “It’s scary.”
Officials handed out masks to residents who stayed behind in Montecito, the wealthy hillside enclave that’s home to celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bridges and Rob Lowe.
“Our house is under threat of being burned,” Ellen DeGeneres tweeted at midday Sunday. “We just had to evacuate our pets. I’m praying for everyone in our community and thankful to all the incredible firefighters.”
A few miles to the west, Santa Barbara Zoo was closed to the public and its 500 animals confined to their night quarters all day. The zoo was just outside the evacuation area, but smoke and ash blew through the 30-acre property.
Across Southern California, wind-fueled wildfires have devoured nearly 800 homes and other structures. More than 200,000 people have been forced to evacuate, but many are hoping to return home soon, as firefighters are finally beginning to get the upper hand on the devastating blazes.
Forecasters said Santa Ana winds that whipped fires across the region last week would continue in some areas at least through Monday.
A lack of rain has officials on edge statewide because of parched conditions and no end in sight to the typical fire season.
“This is the new normal,” Gov. Jerry Brown warned Saturday after surveying damage from the deadly Ventura fire. “We’re about ready to have firefighting at Christmas. This is very odd and unusual.”
High fire risk is expected to last into January and the governor and experts said climate change is making it a year-round threat.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)