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Towns evacuated, California's Thomas Fire grows to 173,000 acres

Staff Writer |
Authorities in California ordered new evacuations for coastal towns in Santa Barbara County as the Thomas Fire continued to grow Sunday.

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Evacuation orders were issued in Carpinteria and Montecito overnight as the largest of several wildfires in the state drew closer to communities in the area.

The devastating Thomas fire grew to 173,000 acres in size and was 15 percent contained on Sunday, according to Cal Fire..

"It is a horror, and it is a horror we want to minimize," California Gov. Jerry Brown said.

Brown toured areas devastated by wildfires and remarked that the state faces a "new reality" due to climate change.

"We're facing a new reality in this state, where fires threaten people's lives, their property, their neighborhoods, and, of course, billions and billions of dollars," Brown said. "And we know from the changing in the climate that it's going to exacerbate everything else."

At least one person has been confirmed dead and 800 homes have been destroyed , including 537 in the Thomas Fire, Cal Fire said.

Virginia Pesola, 70, of Santa Paula, was the first confirmed death as a result of the multiple blazes, as she was found dead Wednesday night at a car crash site along an evacuation route northeast of Ventura.

Firefighters were met with strong winds as they battled the blazes, bringing both the Rye Fire and Creek fires in Los Angeles, which spanned nearly 22,000 acres combined, to 90 percent containment, according to Cal Fire.

The Lilac Fire, which broke out in San Diego County on Thursday, has burned 4,100 acres and was 60 percent contained on Sunday.

At least 45 horses were killed as the blaze burned through a thoroughbred training facility, San Luis Rey Downs in Bonsall, where at least 450 horses were being stabled.

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