The 404-square-mile Thomas Fire was reportedly cresting Montecito Peak, just north of the unincorporated Santa Barbara County community of Montecito, where Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey and many other celebrities have homes.
“It is right above the homes,” fire spokesman Jude Olivas said.
Montecito is also home to such celebrities as Drew Barrymore, Jeff Bridges, Rob Lowe, Malcolm McDowell, Al Gore, Megyn Price, Eric Schmidt, Jane Seymor and Patrick Stewart.
Winfrey expressed her dismay at the latest development on her Twitter account.
“Still praying for our little town. Winds picked up this morning creating a perfect storm of bad for firefighters,” Winfrey tweeted. It was not clear if the former talk show host was in Montecito.
Santa Ana wind gusts were reported up to 65 miles per hour, threatening dozens of homes in the area. Hot, dry conditions combined with the winds are making it hard for firefighters to contain the blaze, leading to Saturday’s evaculation orders.
“When the sundowners surface in that area and the fire starts running down slopes, you are not going to stop it,” Mark Brown, an operations section chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told reporters at a morning news briefing. “And we are not going to stand in front of it and put firefighters in untenable situations.”
Freeway off-ramps into Montecito were closed as evacuation orders expanded, leaving the town virtually empty on Saturday morning.
The Thomas fire is the third-largest in California’s recorded history, which dates to 1932. It has consumed 259,000 acres as of this morning, with containment estimated at 40 percent – a percentage that could drastically change today.
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