In this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, with smoke obscuring the sun in the distance, a Coulson C-130 Air Tanker turns in to make a drop on a hillside near Toro Canyon Road in Carpinteria
- The Pyrocumulus cloud, which resembled an erupting volcano or a nuclear bomb, was seen above the San Ynez Mountains of western Ventura County in the Los Padres National Forest, near Santa Barbara
- The weather phenomenon, also known as a fire cloud, stretched up almost 30,000 feet high
- Eric Boldt, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, said it’s similar to a thunderstorm and could be responsible for helping spread the Thomas Wildfire
- On Sunday, the Calfire grew 50,000 acres to 230,000 acres. It is now the fifth worst fire in Californian history
- Thousands of firefighters were battling the blaze on Monday as it crept relentlessly up the Pacific coast and forced new evacuations
An ominous mushroom cloud was spotted above California Monday as one of the most destructive wildfires in the state’s history crept relentlessly up the Pacific coast.
The weather phenomenon, which resembled an erupting volcano or a nuclear bomb, was seen above the San Ynez Mountains of western Ventura County in the Los Padres National Forest, near Santa Barbara.
The billowing Pyrocumulus cloud, also known as a fire cloud, stretched up almost 30,000 feet high.
Eric Boldt, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Oxnard, told San Francisco Gate that the cloud was created by similar forced to a thunderstorm – and its strong winds could be responsible for helping spread the Thomas Wildfire on Sunday as Calfire grew 50,000 acres to 230,000 acres. It is now the fifth worst fire in Californian history.
‘When we see these clouds billowing so tall, it’s the same mechanisms that are happening with a thunderstorm,’ he said.
‘You’re causing updrafts and air that’s pushing the smoke higher. It creates its own wind. If it starts to spin, that’s where you can get more wind and fast-moving progression of the fire. It can become a dangerous situation for firefighters.’
This fresh image shows wildfires and burn scars in Ventura County, Southern California, from the Thomas Fire
Before and after: Instagram user cateckert3 shared this before and after image showing the devastation near her home
Thousands of firefighters were battling the blaze on Monday as it crept relentlessly up the Pacific coast and forced new evacuations.
As a wildfire near Los Angeles was brought under control, fire crews were being redeployed to battle the Thomas Fire northwest of America’s second-largest city.
Fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters were assisting nearly 6,400 firefighters trying to keep the Thomas Fire away from beachfront towns south of the historic city of Santa Barbara, the California Fire Department (Cal Fire) said.
Huge smoke clouds rise into the sky at the Thomas fire Saturday. The Thomas Fire has spread to near 150,000 acres
Horses that were evacuated from the Thomas Fire are seen on December 10, 2017 in Ojai
‘Gusty northeast winds will cause the fire to threaten areas of the city of Santa Barbara,’ which has a population of 91,000, Cal Fire said.
Eric Boldt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Los Angeles, said he did not see any immediate respite to the dry, windy conditions that are fueling the blaze.
‘The conditions are very critical,’ Boldt said. ‘Given that we don’t see any precipitation for the next two weeks at minimum, it could become the largest fire in the state’s history.’
The Thomas Fire has burned 230,500 acres since it erupted a week ago, Cal Fire said, making it the fifth-largest fire in the state’s history. It was only 15 percent contained as of early afternoon Monday.
The blaze spread over the weekend in the mostly uninhabited Los Padres National Forest, and was threatening the coastal towns of Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria.
Mandatory evacuation orders were lifted for the inland cities of Ojai and Santa Paula in Ventura County, which has been the hardest hit by the Thomas Fire.
Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres was among those fleeing the flames.
‘Our house is under threat of being burned,’ DeGeneres said on Twitter. ‘We just had to evacuate our pets.
‘I’m praying for everyone in our community and thankful to all the incredible firefighters.’
‘Praying for my town,’ actor Rob Lowe, a Santa Barbara County resident, wrote on Twitter. Fires closing in. Firefighters making brave stands. Could go either way. Packing to evacuate now.’
May Osher, a 66-year-old retired schoolteacher in Carpinteria, told the Los Angeles Times she had put photo albums and pet supplies in her car and was ready to evacuate if told to do so.
‘I’m staying until it’s time to go,’ Osher told the newspaper.
Cal Fire said 800 buildings have been destroyed by the fire, which is being fueled by tinder dry brush and strong and unpredictable Santa Ana winds.
Despite the intensity of the fires stretching from north of Los Angeles down to San Diego, authorities have reported only one fatality – a 70-year-old woman who died in a car crash while fleeing a blaze.
California Governor Jerry Brown has warned that climate change meant the state was becoming increasingly vulnerable and wildfires were becoming the ‘new normal.’
‘The fire season used to be a few months in the summer,’ Brown said. ‘Now it’s almost year-long.’
Brown has been one of the most vocal critics of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris accord on global warming, and he renewed his attacks on the administration over its attitude toward climate change.
‘Nature is not a political game. Nature is the ground on which we stand, it’s the air which we breathe,’ he said.
‘The truth of the case is that there’s too much carbon being emitted, that heat-trapping gasses are building up, the planet is warming and all hell is breaking loose.’
This has been California’s deadliest year ever for wildfires. More than 40 people died in October when fires swept through the state’s wine-producing counties north of San Francisco.