All remaining significant evacuation orders for areas around the smoldering remnants of Southern California’s huge wildfire were canceled Thursday after a new round of winds caused little fire activity.
The lifting of evacuation orders and warnings in Santa Barbara County left only remote and little developed Rose Valley in the wilderness of neighboring Ventura County under an order barring residents and visitors.
Warnings of high fire risk were canceled for Santa Barbara County, although they remained in effect elsewhere in Southern California due to Santa Ana winds, low humidity levels and very dry vegetation.
The only visible flame was on the northern side of the fire where controlled burns set by firefighters to clear combustible material were being conducted in wilderness, said fire information officer Brandon Vaccaro.
About 18,000 homes and other buildings were still listed as threatened. Even when there’s no sign of flame or smoke, fires can rekindle.
The Thomas fire, which began Dec. 4, is responsible for two deaths, has destroyed at least 750 homes, and has burned about 425 square miles (1,100 square kilometers).
The blaze was 60 percent contained and is the second-largest in California’s history.
The latest round of winds was caused by the passage of a cold front into the area overnight. But firefighters had used three days of calm conditions to bulldoze containment lines and set controlled fires to clear dry brush.
Days and days of fierce, often erratic gusts combined with extremely dry weather pushed the blaze with incredible speed as it moved through Ventura County’s agricultural Santa Clara Valley, into the city of Ventura and then moved northwestward, threatening the coastal communities of Santa Barbara County.