Update, 7:00 p.m., Thursday:
Cal Fire officials say at least 439 homes and other buildings have burned in the Thomas Fire northeast of Los Angeles.
The wind-whipped blaze has burned 115,000 acres in Ventura County since it began on Dec. 4, stretching from hilly forests to the Pacific Ocean. It was 5 percent contained by Thursday evening.
Gusty Santa Ana winds that have driven the fire are expected to weaken Friday, though officials noted that the winds were unpredictable and that they expected another challenging day.
A Red Flag fire weather conditions warning has been extended to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Officials said they’ve made good progress battling much of the fire, but that thousands of homes remain in jeopardy.
One section of the blaze continued to move toward the communities of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria and Montecito.
ThomasFire [update] Hwy 150 and Hwy 126, north of Santa Paula (Ventura County) is now 115,000 acres and 5% contained. Unified Command: CAL FIRE, Ventura County Fire, Los Padres National Forest and Ventura City Fire. https://t.co/vfLtDXYjzO
Update, 5:45 p.m., Thursday:
At least 20 homes have burned in a retirement community as the fast-moving Lilac Fire surges through northern San Diego County.
The homes were burning in the tightly-packed Rancho Monserate Country Club community in the small city of Fallbrook.
Powerful photos from latimes staff photographer @GinaFerazzi on the #LilacFire in San Diego County. Photo gallery https://t.co/hstlOlz315
Cal Fire officials said two people were burned as a result of the fire, and were taken to a hospital for treatment.
The fire has burned more than 3,000 acres and has zero percent containment.
Officials say more than 1,000 structures are threatened around the community of Bonsall, and that the fire is “growing at a dangerous rate of spread.”
Several evacuation centers have been set up nearby.
A total of six major wildfires are now burning across Southern California.
There are now 6 major wildfires burning in Southern California. #RyeFire #SkirballFire #CreekFire #ThomasFire #LilacFire and #LibertyFire all being fanned by continued #SantaAnaWinds and low humidity. Get information at: https://t.co/OtkdreDFEq
Update, 3:06 p.m., Thursday:
San Diego County officials ordered mandatory evacuations due to a new, fast-moving fire fanned by Santa Ana winds.
The Lilac Fire has already burned 1,000 acres with zero percent containment, according to Cal Fire. Five structures were destroyed and 12 more have been damaged.
LilacFire [update] off Old Hwy 395 at Dulin Road, Bonsall (San Diego County) is now 100 acres. Evacs and road closures in effect. More info from @CALFIRESANDIEGO
The fire was reported about 11 a.m. near the rural community of Bonsall amid wind gusts of up to 35 mph.
The evacuations include a mobile home park, a golf course country club and two schools. Two lanes of Interstate 15 were also closed.
Update, 12:15 p.m., Thursday:
Residents were ordered to evacuate a tiny beachfront community northwest of Los Angeles where the massive Thomas Fire is churning down hillsides toward seaside homes.
A California Highway Patrol officer drove through Faria Beach Thursday announcing the evacuations through a loudspeaker as surging winds roiled smoke through the streets.
Residents used garden hoses to spray palm trees to keep them from burning as firefighters scrambled to stop the progress of flames.
Palm tree farm burns near faria beach
U.S. 101 along the coast was intermittently closed Thursday, as were several highways in and around the Ventura County resort town of Ojai, where most of the 7,000 residents are under evacuation orders.
Authorities closed the U.S. 101 freeway Thursday as flames from the largest and most destructive Southern California wildfire jumped lanes and churned toward coastal and mountain communities northwest of Los Angeles as crews kept an eye on unpredictable winds.
A more favorable wind forecast still called for potentially dangerous gusts, but ones not likely to approach historic levels forecasters had feared, according to the National Weather Service.
“This is good news for the fire crews as the winds will not be driven quite as vigorously,” a weather service statement said.
Calmer overnight conditions helped crews protect the Ventura County resort town of Ojai, where most of the 7,000 residents were under new evacuation orders following a big burst of wind late Wednesday. Evacuations were also ordered for the first time in Santa Barbara County, where the coastal city of Carpinteria was under threat.
ThomasFire [update] Hwy 150 and Hwy 126, north of Santa Paula (Ventura County) is now 96,000 acres and 5% contained. Unified Command: CAL FIRE, @VCFD_PIO, @LosPadresNF and @VenturaCityFD. https://t.co/vfLtDXYjzO
Officials closed U.S. 101 for more than a dozen miles along the coast, cutting off a major route between Ventura and Santa Barbara counties for several hours as fire charred heavy brush along lanes.
Southern California has been hit hard by four major fires (Thomas, Skirball, Rye and Creek fires) that have put tens of thousands of people under evacuation orders and destroyed nearly 200 homes and buildings, a figure that is almost certain to grow.
The Thomas Fire in Ventura County has burned 96,000 acres, is 5 percent contained and threatens 15,000 structures, according to Cal Fire. The Rye Fire in Los Angeles County has burned 7,000 acres, is 15 percent contained and threatens more than 5,400 structures. The Creek Fire in Los Angeles County has burned 12,605 acres, is 10 percent contained and threatens 2,500 structures.
Millions of cellphones buzzed loudly Wednesday night from San Diego to Santa Barbara with a sound that usually means an Amber Alert, but this time meant a rare weather warning for strong winds making extreme fire danger.
Officials hope the electronic push will keep the region alert and the death toll from the week’s fires at zero.
Melissa Rosenzweig, 47, was briefly back home Wednesday after evacuating from her Ventura house, which has been spared so far while most on her street had burned in the largest and most destructive of the region’s fires. She and her husband were about to evacuate again, hoping they will get lucky twice as the new winds arrive.
“Heck yeah I’m still worried,” Rosenzweig said. “We’re very grateful but I know we’re not out of the woods.”
RyeFire [update] off Rye Canyon Loop, west of Valencia (Los Angeles County) is now 7,000 acres and 15% contained. https://t.co/ZMx1UKojdE
In what may have been an early sign of the 140-square-mile fire getting new life, several thousand new evacuations were ordered Wednesday night in Ojai, a town of artists and resorts. The blaze had been creeping there already, but an increase in winds pushed it close enough for many more to flee.
Wild winds could easily send make new fires explode, too, as one did Wednesday in Los Angeles’ exclusive Bel Air section, where a fire consumed multimillion-dollar houses that give the rich and famous sweeping views of Los Angeles.
Little flame was visible by late Tuesday, but Wednesday, fire exploded on the steep slopes of Sepulveda Pass, closing a section of heavily traveled Interstate 405 and destroying four homes.
CreekFire [update] off Kagel Canyon Rd., north of Lake View Terrace (Los Angeles County) per Los Angeles County Fire is now 12,605 acres and 10% contained. https://t.co/VSK3164YtR
Flames burned a wine storage shed at media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s 16-acre Moraga Vineyards estate and appeared to have damaged about 7 acres of vines, a spokeswoman said.
Across the wide I-405 freeway from the fire, the Getty Center art complex was closed to protect its collection from smoke damage. Many schools across Los Angeles were closed because of poor air quality and classes were canceled at 265 schools Thursday.
Back in the beachside city of Ventura, the fire killed more than two dozen horses at a stable and had destroyed at least 150 structures, a number that was expected to get far bigger as firefighters are able to assess losses.
Air tankers that had been grounded much of the week because of high winds flew on Wednesday, dropping flame retardant. Firefighters rushed to attack the fires before winds picked up again.
“We’re basically in an urban firefight in Ventura, where if you can keep that house from burning, you might be able to slow the fire down,” said Tim Chavez, a fire behavior specialist at the blaze. “But that’s about it.”
Dalton reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press Writers Brian Melley, Robert Jablon, Michael Balsamo, John Antczak, Jae Hong and Reed Saxon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
For AP’s complete coverage of the California wildfires, click here.
This story corrects the day of the week throughout and that the wind warning came Wednesday night, not Tuesday.