Los Angeles Fire Department Fire Arson Counter-Terrorism investigator Angel Alvarez checks a burned out homeless camp after a brush fire erupted in hills in Elysian Park in Los Angeles Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Flames threaten coastal California communities

Flames continue to threaten coastal communities as firefighters mourn

Thousands of firefighters tried Sunday to shield coastal communities from one of the biggest wildfires in California history while a funeral procession rolled past burn-scarred hillsides in honour of one of their colleagues who was killed battling the flames.

Crews cleared brush and dug containment lines above hillside neighbourhoods in Santa Barbara County, taking advantage of slightly calmer winds a day after gusts fanned a flare-up that prompted more evacuations.

“Everything’s holding really well,” fire information officer Lisa Cox said. “Thousands of homes have been saved.”

While gusts had eased somewhat, even lower intensity winds were still dangerous, she warned. The fire northwest of Los Angeles was 45 per cent contained.

Television news footage showed at least one structure burned on property in the wealthy enclave of Montecito, and authorities said damage assessments could take days.

Related: Firefighters protect seaside California towns as blaze rages

Mourners stood on freeway overpasses to pay respects to firefighter Cory Iverson, 32, who died Thursday of burns and smoke inhalation. His funeral procession was scheduled to wind through five Southern California counties before ending up at a funeral home in San Diego, where he was based with a state fire engine strike team. He is survived by his pregnant wife and a 2-year-old daughter.

The blaze is also blamed for the Dec. 6 death of a 70-year-old woman who died in a car crash on an evacuation route.

The fire that started nearly two weeks ago has burned more than 1,000 structures, including at least 750 homes. Some 18,000 more homes are still threatened.

Some evacuation orders were lifted to the east in Ventura County, where the blaze erupted, and officials reported making progress protecting the inland agricultural city of Fillmore.

Jim Holden returned to his neighbourhood in the city of Ventura to find his home still standing amid widespread destruction. He told KABC-TV that at the height of the inferno, when it appeared his house would be lost, firefighters risked their own safety to retrieve his belongings.

“They broke in and they saved my family photos,” Holden said, wiping away tears.

Mike and Dana Stoneking lost their Ventura home while many of their neighbours’ properties were spared. The Stonekings planned to rebuild and found some solace after retrieving Mike’s wedding ring from the ashes.

The 422-square-mile (1,093-sq. kilometre) blaze called the Thomas Fire crested a peak just north of Montecito, where evacuation orders remained in effect. Known for its star power, the enclave includes the mansions of Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and many other celebrities.

“Still praying for our little town,” Winfrey tweeted. It was not clear if the former talk show host was in Montecito.

A portion of the city of Santa Barbara was also evacuated as a thick plume of smoke blew through city streets. At the city’s zoo, workers put some animals into crates and kennels to ready them for possible evacuation.

While crews on the fire lines got a break from slightly calmer winds, much of the rest of Southern California was buffeted by powerful gusts that once again increased the wildfire risk across the region. The National Weather Service forecast red flag conditions for extreme fire danger through Sunday evening for Ventura and Los Angeles counties. Trees came down after wind gusts topped 70 mph (113 kph) in mountain areas and 50 mph (80 kph) along the coast.

Everything about the fire has been massive, from the sheer scale of destruction that destroyed entire neighbourhoods to the legions of people attacking it. About 8,300 firefighters from nearly a dozen states battled the third largest wildfire in state history, aided by 78 bulldozers and 29 helicopters.

The cause remains under investigation. So far, firefighting costs have surpassed $117 million.


Christopher Weber, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


In this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department,fire engines provide structure protection at the historic San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

In this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, a Bombardier 415 Super Scooper aircraft comes in for a water drop below East Camino Cielo in the hills above Montecito, Calif., Sunday morning, Dec. 17, 2017. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

Just Posted

Minard sixth as banked slalom debuts at Paralympics

Spallumcheen wheelchair curler Ina Forrest denied bid for third career Paralympics gold

Rockies give it their all in final game

Rockies wrap up most successful season in years

Headed to provincials full of community pride

Bantams team represents East Kootenay at Provincials in Kitimat

A couch-surfing couple and a band of childhood friends to perform at High Notes Music Festival

Festival takes place March 23rd to 25th at Panorama Mountain Resort

BC Chamber comes with praise for local organization, boosts BC-wide message

Val Litwin promotes BC Chamber in talk to local members

Coffee Fest brewed to perfection

5th annual event last weekend in Invermere

Wartime Wednesdays

Local author Elinor Florence explores the stories of veterans

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Salmon Arm community cheers on Natalie Wilkie as she wins first gold medal

Local skier tops the podium in 7.5km race at the PyeongChang Paralympics

Experts: Society has a role in trying to prevent domestic violence

Experts are speaking out following the murder of a woman and her son in Ontario

Progress on fixing Phoenix pay system backlog could be short-lived: Ottawa

Feds have said they won’t try to recover money overpaid until all outstanding issues are fixed

Northern lights chasers in Canada discover new type named ‘Steve’

Phenomenon linked to a powerful current created by charged particles in Earth’s upper atmosphere

Washington state backs B.C. in pipeline dispute

Governor Jay Inslee says he is ‘allied’ with the province on Trans Mountain expansion projection

SAY WHAT? Readers weigh in on high-speed rail to U.S.

B.C. to contribute $300,000 to a million-dollar business study on the proposed project

Most Read