Thomas Fire Grows Slightly Overnight; Now at 15 Percent Containment

Firefighters put out burning embers from the Thomas Fire at the Los Padres National Forest north of Ojai, California on December 8, 2017.  (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

The largest fire currently burning in Southern California grew overnight by 5,000 acres. The Thomas Fire has now burned 148,000 acres in Ventura County and destroyed at least 150 homes.

The Ventura County Fire Department said firefighters made some headway on surrounding the fire, increasing containment from 10 percent on Friday night to 15 percent by Saturday morning.

New mandatory evacuations were ordered Saturday morning for areas from Rancho Matilija west to Lake Casitas, including Highway 150 west to the Santa Barbara County line.

The fire department said the cost of fighting the fire, which broke out Monday near Santa Paula, has reached $17 million.

Residents walk amidst the remains of an apartment complex destroyed by the Thomas Fire in a residential neighborhood on Dec. 5, 2017 in Ventura.
Residents walk amidst the remains of an apartment complex destroyed by the Thomas Fire in a residential neighborhood on Dec. 5, 2017 in Ventura. (Mario Tama/GETTY IMAGES)

At the start of the weekend, the department said the fire had shifted from a wind-driven blaze to a topography-driven fire.

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Governor Jerry Brown is expected to visit the region Saturday, after declaring a state of emergency in neighboring Santa Barbara County.

At one point, as the fire approached the county line and spread along the 101 freeway and west of Ojai, 15,000 homes were threatened.

Nearly 90,000 people had been evacuated due to the fire, with mandatory evacuations lifted for the cities of Ventura and Santa Paula by Friday afternoon. Fillmore and areas to the west remained under evacuation orders.

Several of the ten mobile home trailers that burned in the Thomas Fire in the Santa Paula area are seen early Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
Several of the ten mobile home trailers that burned in the Thomas Fire in the Santa Paula area are seen early Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (Sharon McNary/KPCC)

Cindy Huge with American Red Cross said about 230 people sheltered at the Ventura County Fairgrounds evacuation site on Friday night. She said as of Saturday morning, it was unclear when they will be allowed to return to their homes.

One death has been confirmed. The Ventura County Medical Examiner said the body of 70-year-old Virginia Pesola from Santa Paula was found in Wheeler Canyon on Wednesday night at the scene of a car crash along an evacuation route.

"The cause of death is blunt force injuries with terminal smoke inhalation and thermal injuries," said Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Christopher Young.