Today (Sunday 17th December) calming winds have helped to slow the spread of the California wildfire that is threatening Santa Barbara.

Our photo shows our good friend, the journalist Tom Huth with fellow writer Declan White in downtown Santa Barbara in quieter times a couple of years back.

Declan went to Santa Barbara to write his screenplay HAIRS, which won this year’s Amsterdam International Film Festival.

He departed Ireland as Declan could not find peace in his Co Clare home because the next door residential property had been illicitly rented out as commercial property letting.

The noise and nuisance was so much that Declan and his wife Ann Gitte had to travel abroad to do their work.

In Santa Barbara they met many writers, including the good-humoured Tom Huth.

Tom is now suffering from the wildfire that is ranked as the third largest in state history.

It has already scorched 269,000 acres (109,000 hectares) along the scenic Pacific Coast north of Los Angeles.

Officials said more than 8,500 firefighters were battling the Thomas Fire in Southern California, which began on December 4.

It has destroyed more than 1,000 structures and threatened 18,000 others, including homes in the wealthy town of Montecito just outside the coastal city of Santa Barbara.

The blaze, about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, has forced evacuations that turned neighborhoods into ghost towns and filled the air with smoke.

Communities near Santa Barbara saw a break from the gusting winds that had stoked the fire and helped it spread, opening a window for authorities to contain the disaster during the next two days.

“We want to make sure we get a hold of this thing before Wednesday,” said Captain Rick Crawford, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire.

Strong winds persisted on Sunday in Ventura County, which remained under a red flag warning. Crawford said the threat level was expected to drop later in the day.