Santa Barbara Becomes a Ghost Town as Monster Wildfire Moves Closer

Dec 17, 2017

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The Thomas Fire continued to grow Sunday as firefighters battled the strong Santa Ana winds to get control over the massive blaze before it reaches Santa Barbara. Reportedly, the city has become a ghost town from the widespread evacuations.

According to the latest California fire assessment at 8:58am Pacific Time, the monster wildfire has grown to 269,000 acres (420 square miles) and has destroyed 1,020 structures while damaging another 242 structures. Yet despite the efforts of 8,529 firefighters and 972 fire engines, the wildfire is currently only 40% contained.

As the winds push the fire westward, the mandatory (red on the map below) and voluntary (yellow) evacuation orders are expanding across Santa Barbara county. The solid red line shows the current extent of the Thomas Fire:

At 269,000 acres burned, the Thomas Fire is already nearing the top of the largest fires in California state history. Currently, the largest-ever wildfire was 2003’s Cedar Fire which burned 273,246 acres near San Diego. At 40% containment and just 4,246 acres less than the Cedar Fire, it’s likely that the Thomas Fire will become the largest fire in California state history.

Among the many Santa Barbara residents with their homes under threat is actor Rob Lowe. He took to Instagram before evacuating Saturday morning to show his house within striking distance of the flames:

Our house aprox 7:30 am today. Pray for Santa Barbara.

A post shared by Rob Lowe (@robloweofficial) on

The on-ground firefighters are receiving critical air support from the largest aerial firefighter in the world: the 747 Global SuperTanker.

Considering the proximity of the fire and the massive amount of smoke, the delays and cancellations have been moderate so far for Santa Barbara (SBA) airport, with 10 cancellations Saturday and 6 cancellations as of this writing on Sunday.

To help travelers affected by the fires, American Airlines and United continue to extend their travel waivers for SBA. These waivers allow passengers to change their flights in/out/through SBA at no additional cost.

American Airlines

  • Travel dates: December 12-18.
  • Airport covered: Santa Barbara (SBA)
  • Must have purchased your ticket by December 16.
  • Rebook travel anytime between December 12-22.
  • You can’t change your origin or destination city. Must rebook in same class or pay the difference.


  • Travel dates: December 17-18
  • Airport covered: Santa Barbara (SBA)
  • The change fee and any difference in fare will be waived for new United flights departing on or before [December] 22, 2017, as long as travel is rescheduled in the originally ticketed cabin (any fare class) and between the same cities as originally ticketed.​​

Featured image by Mike Eliason of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department posted on Twitter.

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