The week-long battle against wildfires in California focused on canyons above Carpinteria of Santa Barbara county Monday night, local officials said.
Firefighters from Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Ventura, Fulton and other counties gathered at the foothill of Toro Canyon, about 1 kilometer east of Carpinteria, a small oceanside city located between the Coastal Mountains and the Pacific seashore with about 10,000 residents.
At least three heavy helicopters and two Boeing aircraft capable of dropping water joined the mission before sunset to stop the spread of fire in the open flanks above canyon ridges.
Tony Pighetti, a captain in the Santa Barbara fire department, told Xinhua that since the fire was burning on some very steep mountains firefighters could not reach, the efforts were concentrated on preventing it from approaching the nearby communities.
"The wind is northward now but...it could turn west. So we issued an evacuation order last night," he said.
Most of residents have left Carpinteria since Sunday when the fire dubbed Thomas Fire scorched northward from Ventura County. However, a few young men refused to flee, telling Xinhua they have to defend their homes in the evacuation zone.
About 20 kilometers north of Carpinteria, the University of California, Santa Barbara campus was almost empty Monday after all classes were canceled Saturday following numerous power outages from last Wednesday.
The campus and surrounding areas were sprinkled with ash. Heavy smoke hovered over the area.
"A message was mistakenly sent by Santa Barbara Emergency Management system to evacuate the Santa Barbara area at 3 am last Saturday," a student who refused to revealed her name told Xinhua. "Students were left distressed the entire night with emergency evacuation notifications waking them (up) throughout the night."
According to Cal Fire, California's department of forestry and fire protection, till Monday, five of the six wildfires burning in Southern California last week had been contained more than 90 percent; only Thomas Fire, which started Dec. 4 in Santa Paula of Ventura County, 110 kilometers northwest of Los Angeles downtown, was contained 20 percent.
The blaze spreading over 231,700 acres (937.7 square km) has already destroyed more than 790 structures and the cost of fighting the blaze has topped 34 million U.S. dollars.