California wildfires have destroyed 1,000 structures — and counting

LOS ANGELES — One week after the Thomas Fire exploded from a brush fire to a raging inferno, hundreds of firefighters made some headway Monday in their struggle to contain it.

The blaze is larger than all of New York City and about 20 percent contained as of Monday evening, according to the fire protection agency CAL FIRE.

But it’s only one of six major wildfires torching the state, which have destroyed more than 1,000 structures.

As the flames burned in the foothills on the edge of Montecito in Santa Barbara County on Monday evening, some hoped for the best.

Barbara Nimmo said she had lived through massive wildfires, including the Zaca fire that burned more than 240,000 acres in 2007 and one in Romero Canyon more than 40 years ago. She was staying put, she said, even as blaze glowed on the hillside behind her.

“We’re from here. We know fires and we feel absolutely dedicated to our clients,” said Nimmo, an estate manager for several mansions in the affluent Montecito area. “I’m just devastated overall. This is the worst I’ve seen.”

In just two months, Dr. Antonio Wong lost two houses in two separate California wildfires.

The anesthesiologist, his wife and his son escaped their Santa Rosa home before a wildfire engulfed it in October.

Weeks after Wong sifted through the charred remnants of that house, he learned that his other home in Ventura — which he was renting out to members of the military — burned down last week.

While those tenants are safe, “it was pretty devastating,” Wong said from Santa Rosa on Monday.

“I still haven’t processed the fire down there (in Ventura). I have so much to do to rebuild my house here (that) the thought of trying to rebuild a house down there at the same time is overwhelming. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

At more than 230,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, the Thomas Fire is now the fifth largest wildfire in modern California history.

 

Some 93,243 people were under mandatory evacuation orders in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties Monday afternoon, Thomas County fire officials said.

The death toll from the Thomas Fire stands at one. Authorities believe Virginia Pesola, 70, of Santa Paula, died in a crash while fleeing the fire. Her body was found Wednesday.