Firefighters protect seaside California towns as blaze rages
Firefighters kept a wall of flames from descending mountains into coastal neighborhoods after a huge and destructive Southern California wildfire exploded in size, becoming the fifth largest in state history.
Thousands remained under evacuation orders Monday as the fire churned west through foothill areas of Carpinteria and Montecito, seaside Santa Barbara County towns about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles. Much of the fire's rapid new growth occurred on the eastern and northern fronts into unoccupied areas of Los Padres National Forest, where the state's fourth largest fire burned a decade ago.
The blaze, which had already destroyed more than 750 buildings, burned six more in Carpinteria on Sunday, officials said. It's just 10 percent contained after charring nearly 360 square miles (930 square kilometers) of dry brush and timber.
Fires are not typical in Southern California this time of year but can break out when dry vegetation and too little rain combine with the Santa Ana winds. Though the state emerged this spring from a yearslong drought, hardly any measurable rain has fallen in the region over the past six months.
"This is the new normal," Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown warned Saturday after surveying damage from the deadly Ventura fire. Brown and experts said climate change is making wildfires a year-round threat.