With Storms in the Forecast, SoCal Fire Zones Bracing for Mudslides

The Thomas Fire burn scar across hillsides in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. (Nathan Solis/CNS)

CARPINTERIA, Calif. (CN) – With rain approaching Southern California on Monday for the first time in months, Santa Barbara County issued evacuation orders a month after residents fled their homes due to wildfire, this time because of the possibility of mudslides.

The burn scar across Ventura and Santa Barbara counties from the largest wildfire in the state’s history stretches 281,620 acres, according to Cal Fire. And with rain in the forecast, residents in areas below the Thomas Fire and other fire scars have again been told to leave their homes.

In the coming week, officials with the U.S. Forest Service will monitor hillsides and areas around the fire zone for potential flooding and mudslides. That information will be presented to county and state officials, Forest Service spokesman Andrew Madsen said.

A flash flood watch and wind advisory are in effect for the cities of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Ojai and other parts of Southern California impacted by the recent fires. Debris flow or mudslides are likely with the National Weather Service in Los Angeles predicting 4 to 7 inches of rain are expected in the foothills and mountains over the next few days.

Carpinteria High School was closed Monday morning due to mandatory evacuation orders from the Office of Emergency Management.

Resident Candi Burquez hiked the foothills around the school on Monday.

“The ground is burned as far as the eye can see. The burn scars are really bad,” Burquez, who is on standby with an evacuation warning, said.

When the Thomas Fire crossed over into Santa Barbara County last month, Burquez updated her neighbors and friends through social media. Her husband Wally Burquez, a retired fire captain with Carpinteria Summerland Fire Department, was home when the wildfire raged through the county.

“It was the first big fire he was home for, so he would just calm me down and then I would post and calm everyone else down,” she said.

She initially posted information about the fire, wind gusts, containment, spread and other details about the fire to Facebook. But someone requested she share her posts with Carpinteria Swap, a public Facebook group.

“I didn’t realize what I had started,” she said. “It was a large amount of people I didn’t know.”

Last month, Calla Gold of Carpinteria said Candi Burquez’s social media post were like clockwork and provided some much needed calm. Gold and Burquez have never met. Both say their community is small, but also grew closer.

“Everyone in Carpinteria got to watch the hillsides burn together,” Gold said.

As of Monday, the Thomas Fire is 92 percent contained with 217 personnel still working the lines.

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