The Thomas fire was 5 percent contained, mostly along the southeast flank in the Santa Paula area. Forecasters say strong Santa Ana winds, coupled with low humidity, could offer "a recipe for explosive fire growth."
"We stand a good chance of a challenging night and day tomorrow," California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Tim Chavez said Wednesday, adding that there's potential for fire growth on the northwest side and a high probability of spot fires. "It's going to be a difficult night and day."
The focus Wednesday, officials said, was keeping the fire out of the Ojai Valley while assessing the devastation in the cities of Ventura and Santa Paula.
The hot Santa Ana winds that drove the fire at remarkable speed on Tuesday had lessened greatly Wednesday. However, they were predicted to increase again on Thursday.
"We are in the beginning of a protracted wind event," said state fire chief Ken Pimlott.
"There will be no ability to fight fire in these kinds of winds," Pimlott said. "At the end of the day, we need everyone in the public to listen and pay attention. This is not 'watch the news and go about your day.' This is pay attention minute-by-minute ... keep your head on a swivel."
(Times staff writer Matt Hamilton contributed to this report.)
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