Southern California Wildfire Grows, Prompts New Evacuations

Authorities in Southern California have carried out a new round of evacuations as high winds push the raging Thomas Fire closer to homes in Santa Barbara County. The 404-square-mile blaze, which has been burning its way through the area for nearly two weeks, approached the wealthy community of Montecito on Saturday. “It is right above the homes,” Cal Fire spokesman Jude Olivas was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office spokesman Brian Olmstead said about 12,000 people were being evacuated Saturday as the fire picked up again. Firefighters had made some progress when the Santa Ana winds died down Friday, but meteorologists have warned that winds of up to 55 mph could further spread the blaze and spark new fires over the weekend. The Thomas Fire, now the third-largest in California’s modern history, has already claimed two victims, a firefighter killed earlier this week and a 70-year-old woman found dead along the evacuation route last week.