Body found in burn area as Thomas fire spreads along California coast

Gusty Santa Ana winds and bone-dry conditions continued to stoke major wildfires in Southern California on Thursday as new evacuations were ordered for coastal communities in Ventura County and officials announced the discovery of a dead body near Ojai.

Winds picked up late Thursday morning, posing a challenge to firefighters battling flames in the massive 96,000-acre Thomas fire in Ventura County. At Faria Beach wind speeds more than doubled in the span of an hour, pushing flames closer to the coastal community.

As smoke billowed overhead and palm trees burned, a police officer drove through the settlement with a megaphone blaring: “Mandatory evacuation” and “Please go the other way, the road is closed.”

Authorities also urged residents to evacuate forested areas near Ojai, at the wildfire’s northern front.

The National Weather Service predicted winds of 28 to 35 mph with gusts up to 50 mph in the Faria Beach area until 5 or 6 p.m., meteorologist Todd Hall said.

“If they get through the afternoon portion, it’ll start turning around,” Hall said. A mild, onshore breeze could help firefighters battle flames at Faria Beach on Thursday night, he said, but the rest of Southern California can expect sustained Santa Ana winds for the rest of the day.

Winds across Los Angeles and Ventura Counties are expected to decrease to 30 to 40 mph by Thursday night. By Friday, the Santa Anas could slow to 15 to 25 mph.

It was filled with suitcases, photographs, documents and medication. “The one thing you cannot replace are photographs,” he said.

Greer and his wife both served in the Air Force. Greer retired 15 years ago.

“I’m ready to go in a minute if we need to evacuate,” he said. “When you’re ready, you’re not scared.”

Times staff writers Matt Hamilton, Louis Sahagun, Laura Nelson, Brittny Mejia and Jaclyn Cosgrove contributed to this report.

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12:40 p.m.: This article was updated with information about wind conditions, the Thomas fire, Faria Beach and the Skirball fire.

11:05 a.m.: This article was updated with information about the Thomas fire and wind conditions.

9:45 a.m.: This article was updated with information about the Creek and Skirball fires.

This article was originally published at 8:30 a.m.

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