New evacuations ordered as winds reinvigorate California wildfire

VENTURA, Calif., Dec 10 (Reuters) - California's largest wildfire pushed toward prosperous coastal cities on Sunday, prompting a new wave of evacuations as firefighters struggled to curb its destructive power with the gusty winds that have fueled fires for nearly a week.

Authorities ordered residents in parts of Carpinteria and Montecito to evacuate early on Sunday as the Thomas Fire edged closer to the city of Santa Barbara, about 100 miles (160 km) northwest of Los Angeles.

The blaze, the worst of six major fires in Southern California in the last week, has already blackened 173,000 acres (62,726 hectares), consumed hundreds of structures and left nearly 90,000 homes and businesses in the area without power.

24 PHOTOS
Wildfire in Ventura County, California
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Wildfire in Ventura County, California
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 5: Smoke blows out of the burning palm trees as brush fire threaten homes on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 5: Firefighters work to control the western side of Grant Park as brushfire engulf most of the vegetation on the hill, on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A man waters his home as firefighters battle a wildfire as it burns along a hillside near homes in Santa Paula, California, on December 5, 2017. Fast-moving, wind-fueled brush fire exploded to about 10,000 acres in Ventura County Monday night, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes, officials said. / AFP PHOTO / RINGO CHIU (Photo credit should read RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A firefighter battles a wildfire as it burns along a hillside near homes in Santa Paula, California, on December 5, 2017. Fast-moving, wind-fueled brush fire exploded to about 10,000 acres in Ventura County Monday night, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes, officials said. / AFP PHOTO / RINGO CHIU (Photo credit should read RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman evacuates her home as a wildfire burns along a hillside near homes in Santa Paula, California, on December 5, 2017. Fast-moving, wind-fueled brush fire exploded to about 10,000 acres in Ventura County Monday night, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes, officials said. / AFP PHOTO / RINGO CHIU (Photo credit should read RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images)
A firefighter looks at a house burnt to the ground during the Thomas wildfire in Ventura, California on December 5, 2017. Fast-moving, wind-fueled brush fire exploded to about 10,000 acres in Ventura County Monday night, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes, officials said. / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
A firefighter battles a wildfire as it burns along a hillside near homes in Santa Paula, California, on December 5, 2017. Fast-moving, wind-fueled brush fire exploded to about 10,000 acres in Ventura County Monday night, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes, officials said. / AFP PHOTO / RINGO CHIU (Photo credit should read RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images)
Embers blow from burned trees as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A home burns as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Smoke rises into the night sky as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 4, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
A burned truck smolders on a country road at night as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
Downtown is darkened by a power outage with smoke rising in the distance as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres in Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
Embers blow from burned trees as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
Property burns at night as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
The burned remains of crashed cars are seen at night on a country road as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
A structure burns as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
The burned remains of crashed cars are seen at night on a country road as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
Property burns at night as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
A home burns as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
Embers blow from a tree shortly before it fell down near burned cars as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
A home burns as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
A fire crew passes a burning home during a wind-driven wildfire in Ventura, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A firefighter inspects a burning home during a wind-driven wildfire in Ventura, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Embers blow from burned trees as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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The combination of Santa Ana winds and rugged terrain in the mountains that run through Santa Barbara and Ventura counties have hampered firefighting efforts, and officials said the Thomas Fire was only 15 percent contained on Sunday.

The National Weather Service said winds of up to 55 miles (88 km) per hour were expected on Sunday, up from top speeds of 40 miles per hour on Saturday.

The fires raging across Southern California have forced the evacuation of some 200,000 people and destroyed nearly 800 structures.

Governor Jerry Brown, who surveyed the devastation in Ventura on Saturday, said the ferocious fires in December may be "the new normal" for the state, with climate change exacerbating the drought conditions that stoke such blazes.

At the Ventura County Fairgrounds, evacuees slept in makeshift beds while rescued horses were sheltered in stables. A steady stream of rescue workers streamed in and out of the entrance early on Sunday.

Peggy Scissons, 78, arrived at the shelter with her dog last Wednesday, after residents of her mobile home park were forced to leave. She has not yet found out whether her home is standing.

"I don't know what's gonna happen next or whether I'll be able to go home," she said. "It would be one thing if I were 40 or 50, but I'm 78. What the heck do I do?"

James Brown, 57, who retired from Washington State's forestry service and has lived in Ventura for a year, was forced to leave his house along with his wife last week because both have breathing problems.

"It brought back old memories, fighting forest fires," said Brown, who is in a wheelchair. "We knew a fire was coming, but we didn't know it would be this bad."

Thus far, the fires have been blamed for a single death, after a 70-year-old woman who died Wednesday in a car accident as she attempted to flee the flames in Ventura County. Scores of horses have died, including at least 46 at a thoroughbred training facility.

Some of the other fires, in San Diego and Los Angeles counties, have been largely controlled by the thousands of firefighters on the ground this week.

16 PHOTOS
Faces of those impacted and battling the Ventura County, California wildfire
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Faces of those impacted and battling the Ventura County, California wildfire
SHADOW HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 05:Judy Hofmann-Sanders hugs a firefighter on McBroom Street in Shadow Hills, where the Creek fire destroyed several homes. (Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 05: Ventura County Firefighter Aaron Cohen catches his breath after fighting to save multi-million dollar homes along Cobblestone Drive near Foothill Road and North Victoria Avenue Tuesday after a fast-moving, wind-fueled wildfire swept into Ventura destroying many homes early Tuesday, burning over 45,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate. 'We chased the fire from Santa Paula all the way into Ventura through the night,' Cohen said. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SYLMAR, CA - DECEMBER 5:A firefighter gets into position to battle the Creek Fire as a house is engulfed in flames near the intersection of Johanna Avenue and McBroom Street in Shadow Hills on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. The fire started at about 3:42 a.m. in the area of Gold Creek and Little Tujunga roads and has burned more than 11,000 acres. (Photo by Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SHADOW HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 05:Judy Hofmann-Sanders talks on the phone as her home is consumed by the Creek fire along McBroom Street in Shadow Hills. (Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 05: Chino Valley Fire Engineer Chris Calvert works the engine as Firefighters fight to save multi-million dollar homes along Cobblestone Drive near Foothill Road and North Victoria Avenue Tuesday midday after a fast-moving, wind-fueled wildfire swept into Ventura destroying many homes early Tuesday, burning over 45,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 05: Amanda Leon and husband Johnny Leon watch as Firefighters fight to save multi-million dollar homes along Cobblestone Drive near Foothill Road and North Victoria Avenue Tuesday midday after a fast-moving, wind-fueled wildfire swept into Ventura destroying many homes early Tuesday, burning over 45,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Local residents react as numerous homes burn on a hillside during a wind driven wildfire in Ventura, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Local residents watch a home burn on a hillside during a wind-driven wildfire in Ventura, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A Ventura police officer squints his eyes in the smoke after using his fire extinguisher to put out a spot fire as strong winds carry a wildfire into Ventura, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Ventura policemen leave a neighborhood after checking a home as strong winds carry a wildfire into Ventura, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Firefighters battle flames from a Santa Ana wind-driven brush fire called the Thomas Fire in Santa Paula, California, December 4, 2017. Photo taken December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 05: Tammy Hanna breaks into tears as she is hugged by husband Antoine as they are relieved their home was saved by Firefighters along Cobblestone Drive near Foothill Road and North Victoria Avenue Tuesday after a fast-moving, wind-fueled wildfire swept into Ventura destroying many homes early Tuesday, burning over 45,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate. 'We chased the fire from Santa Paula all the way into Ventura through the night,' Cohen said. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 05: Wearing his Christmas garb Justin Ekback watches as Firefighters fight to save multi-million dollar homes along Cobblestone Drive near Foothill Road and North Victoria Avenue Tuesday midday after a fast-moving, wind-fueled wildfire swept into Ventura destroying many homes early Tuesday, burning over 45,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SHADOW HILLS, CA DECEMBER 05, 2017 -- Judy Hofmann-Sanders can only watch as her home is consumed by the Creek fire along McBroom Street in Shadow Hills. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Local residents pass by a burning house during the Thomas wildfire in Ventura, California, on December 5, 2017. Firefighters battled a wind-whipped brush fire in southern California that has left at least one person dead, destroyed more than 150 homes and businesses and forced tens of thousands to flee. / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Local residents Aaron Cohen hugs Tammy Hanna during the Thomas wildfire in Ventura, California on December 5, 2017. Firefighters battled a wind-whipped brush fire in southern California that has left at least one person dead, destroyed more than 150 homes and businesses and forced tens of thousands to flee. / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
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Both the Creek and Rye fires in Los Angeles County were 90 percent contained by Sunday morning, officials said, while the Skirball Fire in Los Angeles' Bel Air neighborhood was 75 percent contained.

North of San Diego, the 4,100-acre (1,659 hectare) Lilac Fire was 60 percent contained by Sunday.

Brown issued emergency proclamations last week for Santa Barbara, San Diego, Los Angeles and Ventura counties, freeing up additional resources to fight the infernos.

President Donald Trump issued a federal proclamation that enabled agencies to coordinate relief efforts.

(Reporting by Phoenix Tso; Additional reporting by Mike Blake in San Diego; Writing by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone and Mary Milliken)

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