Firefighters on Thomas Fire save hundreds of homes in Montecito area

Updated total of homes and commercial structures destroyed: 1,558

Above: 3-D map of the west end of the Thomas Fire in the Santa Barbara and Montecito area showing the perimeter at 12:30 a.m. PST December 17, 2017.

(UPDATED at 1:46 a.m. PST December 17, 2017)

Firefighters on the 269,000-acre Thomas Fire in Southern California have had good days and bad days since it started December 4, but in an epic battle Saturday they saved hundreds of homes in the Montecito area east of Santa Barbara. The Ventura County Fire Department Public Information Officer referred to it as a “BIG firefight to hold their line”.

The Incident Management Team announced Sunday that the updated total of homes and commercial structures destroyed is 1,558.

The west end of the Thomas Fire is burning on the mountain slopes in the Los Padres National Forest above Santa Barbara and Montecito but it has worked its way out of the Forest to the periphery of Montecito.

Map of the Thomas Fire
Map of the west side of the Thomas Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 12:30 a.m. PST December 17, 2017. The white line was the perimeter on December 10. Click to enlarge.

The huge blaze is now the third largest in the recorded history of California.

The winds on the west end of the fire Sunday will be out of the southwest or northwest and relatively light, but the east side could experience strong Santa Ana wind conditions — northeast winds of 25 to 40 mph with gusts to 60 mph while humidities will lower to 10 to 15 percent. The entire area is under a Red Flag Warning.

map Thomas Fire december 17 2017
Map of the Thomas Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 12:30 a.m. PST December 17, 2017. The white line was the perimeter on December 10. Click to enlarge.

Here are the latest stats from the Incident Management Team”

statistics Thomas Fire California

statistics Thomas Fire California

Red Flag Warnings for California

Red Flag Warning December 17 2017 CaliforniaRed Flag Warnings have been issued for portions of California today. In Los Angeles and Ventura Counties northeast winds of 25 to 40 mph with gusts to 60 mph will continue into the afternoon while humidities will lower to 10 to 15 percent today.

The map was current as of 10:36 a.m. MDT on Sunday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts.

Missing burros affected by Legion Lake Fire found

Above: file photo of one of the burros in Custer State Park, September 13, 2017.

(Originally published at 2:30 p.m. MST December 16, 2017)

All of the burros in Custer State Park have been found. During the first few days after the Legion Fire started in Custer State Park the staff had their hands full fighting the fire which ultimately burned over 54,000 acres. The small herd of burros that are beloved by tourists at first could not be found, then about half were located, and today the park announced that all nine of them are alive. The bad news is that all of the burros were injured in the fire. After consultation with a veterinarian, the staff decided to treat them, but “due to the nature of the burn injuries we will not know the outcome of the burros”, the park said in a statement.

Articles on Wildfire Today about the Legion Lake Fire are tagged “Legion Lake Fire”.

The burros are very tame and will come up to a parked car. They have been known to poke their head through open car windows hoping to get a carrot or a Cheeto. A Google image search illustrates this behavior.

In better news, a light layer of snow covers the fire which, the park announced Saturday, is “close to being fully under containment.

Snow Legion Lake Fire
Snow on the Legion Lake Fire, December 16, 2017. Custer State Park photo.
Map Legion Lake Fire
Map of the Legion Lake Fire, December 15, 2017.

Update on Legion Lake Fire in the Black Hills

Above: The Legion Lake Fire off Lame Johnny Road in the southern portion of the fire not far from Highway 79 December 14, 2017.

(Originally published at 2:42 p.m. MST December 15, 2017)

Firefighters are beginning to get a handle on the Legion Lake Fire burning in the Black Hills of South Dakota in both Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park. After conducting burnout operations on the east and west sides, and corralling a slopover on the southwest corner, the Incident Management Team (IMT) reports that the fire now totals 53,875 acres.

Articles on Wildfire Today about the Legion Lake Fire are tagged “Legion Lake Fire”.

Mop up will continue through the weekend and some resources are being released. The Type 2 IMT expects to transition back to a local Type 3 IMT by Saturday. Highways 16A and 87 remain closed due to the threat of falling trees. The two air tankers were released but the the Type 3 helicopter remains on scene for aerial recon.

map legion lake fire
Map of the Legion Lake Fire. The red dots on the west side represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:12 a.m. MST December 15, 2017.

The aerial photo below shows the northeast corner of the fire during burnout operations late in the day on December 13, with helpful notes to identify landmarks. Click on it a couple of times to see a larger version.

Now that the spread of the fire has been halted, at least temporarily, Custer State Park has been able to reassign some of their staff to assessing the wildlife. Here is what they reported Friday afternoon:

The majority of our bison herd has been discovered and we are currently in the process of gathering them up and assessing them. The majority of our pronghorn, elk and deer herds have also been located and visually appear to be doing well. We found half of our burro herd and they were the animals that were most impacted by the fire. They are currently being evaluated by veterinarians for an overall health check. We will continue to look for the remainder of the burro herd, but at this time it is believed they did not survive the extreme fire growth from Tuesday night.

The weather Saturday and Saturday night should help slow down the fire even more, with an 80 percent chance of an inch of snow. The high temperatures on Saturday and Sunday will be in the 30s.

fire engine legion lake fire
Seen at the Incident Command Post December 13, 2017.
 legion lake fire
The Legion Lake Fire December 13, 2017. IMT photo.
 legion lake fire
The Legion Lake Fire December 13, 2017. IMT photo.

Firefighters on Legion Lake Fire shift to mop-up

Above: the Legion Lake Fire off Lame Johnny Road near Highway 79.

(Originally published at 4:44 p.m. MST December 14, 2017)

The primary emphasis on the Legion Lake Fire in the Southern Black Hills of South Dakota is shifting from line construction and burning out to mop-up. On Thursday some areas were still being being burned out to secure a few sections of the perimeter, but most of the firefighters were locating and suppressing anything that is still burning close enough to the edge of the fire to be a potential threat to cross the fireline.

The Incident Management Team is calling the fire 47,312 acres, but that could change if more accurate mapping becomes available. That size puts it on the list as the third largest wildfire in recorded history of the Black Hills.

We have been hearing for several days that the cause was a fallen power line and that has been confirmed.

Articles on Wildfire Today about the Legion Lake Fire are tagged “Legion Lake Fire”.

It was overcast and windy at the fire Thursday with north winds gusting at 12 to 20 mph. They should subside Thursday night but resume on Friday blowing from the west at 15 gusting to 20 mph under mostly sunny skies. Saturday will bring a 50 percent chance of a small amount of precipitation, about 0.05″ of rain or less than an inch of snow.

All evacuation orders have been lifted. Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park are closed to the public, except in Wind Cave the roads that are still open include Hwy. 385, Hwy 87, and Beaver Creek Road (across from the fire lookout tower). In Custer State Park portions of Highways 16A and 87 are still closed.

The RJ85 air tanker that was at Rapid City has gone back to California and the other, an MD-87, is on her day off today. The lead plane has also departed, so it appears that the remaining air tanker will probably be released when it returns to duty Friday.

On Thursday we shot the photos below on Lame Johnny Road in the southern portion of the fire not far from Highway 79. Click on the photos to see larger versions.

Firefighter killed on the Thomas Fire

(UPDATED at 11:55 p.m. MST December 14, 2017)

CAL FIRE has released the name of the firefighter that was killed on the Thomas Fire in Southern California today.

CAL FIRE officials hold a press conference after the death of firefighter Cory Iverson in the Thomas Fire.

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(Originally published at 3:26 p.m. MST December 14, 2017)

A firefighter from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection was killed today while battling the huge Thomas Fire in Southern California. The family has been notified but no details have been released except that the victim was a male Engineer from the San Diego County unit.

“I am very saddened to report that a firefighter fatality has occurred on the Thomas Incident,” Chief Ken Pimlott, the director of CAL FIRE, said in a statement. “The incident is still unfolding, but in this world of fast moving information, it is important to me that only factual information be shared. To that end, I can confirm a fatality of a CAL FIRE Engineer from the San Diego Unit has occurred. IMT 4, CAL FIRE Local 2881, and Southern Region leadership are working to support the Unit and his family, who have been notified.

“More details will be made available as they are confirmed.”

Our sincere condolences go out to the Engineer’s family, friends, and co-workers.

Since the Thomas Fire started on December 4 it has burned 242,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. A few days after the fire started a civilian was killed in a vehicle accident during the evacuation.