Many residents of Ojai, Calif., are voluntarily evacuating as the Thomas Fire that tore through parts of Ventura city now burns toward the town of 7,000, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The Thomas Fire, driven by high wind, is tearing across the landscape from the south and east of Ojai. As firefighters prepare to defend the ash covered town, another fire burns across a mountain ridge to the north.
“The fire is here and wrapped around the community,” Cal Fire branch director Shane Lauderdale told the Los Angeles Times.
“I’ve been telling people, ‘If you can get your loved ones and valuables to a safe place, you should,'” Ojai City Manager Steve McClary said. “That’s a tough answer to give. I wish I could be more specific. But this is no time for false promises.”
Firefighters in Los Angeles County, just hours southeast of Ojai, were told to expect a brush burning index, a measure of fire danger, of 296 Thursday. Fire danger is considered extreme at an index value of 165, CNN reports.
Cal Fire issues red flag warnings in areas where weather events may cause extreme fires in less than 24 hours. Red flag warning are in effect for the Los Angeles area until Saturday.
“[Thursday] is going to be the worst day with the winds,” Cal Fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff told Mercury News Wednesday. “We’re expecting gusts up to or possibly worse than the North Bay fires. We are expecting gusts up to 80 mph.”
The Thomas Fire has destroyed at least 150 buildings already, most in Ventura after the fire swept through neighborhoods and the city’s downtown until it hit the beach and Pacific Ocean.
About 50,000 people in and around Ventura are under forced evacuations. The Thomas Fire has burned around 65,000 acres, more than 100 square miles.
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