Winds churn California wildfires, keep aircraft from helping (copy)

Firefighters gather in front of a residential area as a wildfire burns along the 101 Freeway Tuesday, in Ventura.

Jae C. Hong

The extreme conditions propelling a massive blaze in Ventura County eerily resemble those of the destructive Tubbs Fire that devastated Sonoma and Napa counties in early October, a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection official said Tuesday.

Ventura County’s Thomas Fire started Monday night and grew exponentially to nearly 50,000 acres, resulting in evacuation of at least 27,000 people. The fire was zero percent contained Tuesday afternoon, officials said.

“This is mirroring the Tubbs Fire we had to deal with in Northern California,” Cal Fire Deputy Chief Scott McLean told The Chronicle. “We’re dealing with extreme wind conditions and weather that is extremely dry and (difficult) topography. This is not flat land, and some areas are inaccessible to get equipment to.”

As happened during the North Bay fires, gusting winds rapidly spread flames and struck at night when aircraft couldn’t be used to battle the blazes. Other similarities included the fires burning through remote, hard-to-reach terrain and jumping into heavily populated urban areas.

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The trees, ground and air are similarly dry. Ventura County has seen just 0.13 of an inch of rain since July 1, according to the National Weather Service. In October and November, the total was only 0.05 inches.

The high Santa Ana winds are predicted to last through the week, and are blowing embers across the landscape in all directions.

“This just shows us that there is no fire season anymore,” McLean said. “It’s December. We have fires all year round now.”

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