County residents are urged to stay alert as there have been periodic power and communication outages in South Santa Barbara County due to the large wildfire that has been burning in Ventura County since Monday night. 

The Santa Barbara County's Office of Emergency Management is urging citizens to keep emergency lines open and to only contact 911 in case of an emergency. 

As of 8:30 a.m. this morning, 20,000 customers have been affected due to the Thomas fire, according to the Southern California Edison company. 

Some customers in fire-affected areas should be prepared to be without power or experience intermittent outage for the next few days because of damage caused by the fire, according to Southern California Edison.

The electric company also has deployed personnel to the Ventura and Santa Barbara counties emergency operations centers that are currently open. 

Santa Barbara County's Public Health Department and Air Pollution Control District have also issued an air quality warning for the area due to the Thomas fire, as smoke and ash from the blaze is affecting local air quality.

Officials said conditions are expected to continue over the next several days, adding that levels of smoke and particles, as well as areas impacted, will vary. Conditions could also change quickly, they added.

"If you see or smell smoke in the air, be cautious and use common sense to protect your and your family's health," county officials said. Everyone, especially people with heart or lung disease (including asthma), older adults and children should limit time spent outdoors and avoid outdoor exercise when high concentrations of smoke and particles are in the air.

For those with symptoms that may be related to exposure to smoke and soot, contact your health care provider. Symptoms include repeated coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, and nausea or unusual fatigue or lightheadedness. 

Officials also warn residents to keep windows closed and avoid using the fireplace. 

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While staying at home, residents are also asked to ensure that holiday lights and decorations are plugged into a power surge charger and to ensure that cords are not placed under carpets. The county also suggests residents back up any work done on home computers. 

It is also advised for people to take the stairs and not use elevators. 

"Fire crews do a lot of elevator rescues when the power goes out, and you don't want to be stuck in one," the county said. 

There is also a possibility of strong winds later this afternoon, officials said, so make sure that all patio furniture and any outdoor hanging plants are secure. 

Santa Barbara County residents can stay on top of any information and alerts by registering to receive emergency notifications at

Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210