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.


(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.

10,000-foot hose lay on the Thomas Fire in SoCal

@EliasonMike of the Santa Barbara Fire Department uploaded these photos to Twitter December 13:

#ThomasFire-Five engines and 2 Dozers from the Santa Barbara County Fire Dept are in the process of clearing a fire break and laying 10 THOUSAND feet of hose across a canyon from atop Camino Cielo down to Gibraltar to make a stand should the fire move that direction.

Thomas Fire hose lay

Thomas Fire hose lay

Smoke from Thomas Fire affects air quality in California

Above: Wildfire smoke forecast for 6 p.m. PST December 10, 2017.

(Originally published at 3:30 p.m. PST December 10, 2017)

The Thomas Fire is having a significant effect on the air quality in California. Some areas downwind of the fire to the northwest had “unhealthy” conditions at 2 p.m. Sunday, including Santa Barbara and Goleta. Forecasts show that smoke and ash will continue to affect the southern part of Santa Barbara County for the next several days. The Santa Ynez Valley and the northern parts of the County will see increasing impacts.

Thomas Fire smoke air quality
Satellite photo showing smoke from the Thomas Fire December 10, 2017.
Thomas Fire smoke air quality
Air quality at 2 p.m. PST December 10.
Thomas Fire smoke air quality
Air Quality in Santa Barbara County at 2 p.m. PST December 12, 2017.

Thomas Fire spreads into Santa Barbara County

New mandatory evacuation orders issued. New estimates show approximately 230,000 acres have burned.

Above: The Thomas Fire as seen from Sisar Peak east of Ojai at 9:07 a.m. PST December 10, 2017.

(UPDATED at 9:58 p.m. PST December 10, 2017)

The Thomas Fire has spread well into Santa Barbara County, and Sunday afternoon was on the slopes north of Carpinteria, California. The strong northeast Santa Ana wind slowed, as has the fire growth, but the vegetation is so dry that a moderate wind can still keep it moving at a persistent pace

(All articles on Wildfire Today about the Thomas Fire are tagged “Thomas Fire”.)

Sunday evening the U.S. Forest Service reported the fire has burned 230,000 acres. If this is accurate it puts it at number 5, near the top of the list of the largest fires in the recorded history of California.

top 20 largest fires in California

The forecast calls for wind on the slopes above Carpinteria Sunday night to be from the northeast at 10 mph, variable directions on Monday, and then Monday night to again be from the northeast but stronger, 15 mph with gusts to 23. The relative humidity will remain in the teens night and day through Tuesday. This could lead to active fire behavior throughout that period.

Using heat sensor data from a satellite, we mapped the additional acres that burned on the west side of the fire Saturday night and early Sunday morning. It is shown in blue on the map below, and this freshly burned area covers about 40,000 acres. The data is not verified, since at times the heat sensor was overwhelmed by hot particulate matter in the smoke plume outside the actual fire perimeter, so this may change after more accurate information is available from an overnight fixed wing aircraft mapping flight.

map Thomas fire Carpinteria california
Draft map showing an approximation of the additional acres (in blue) that burned in the Thomas Fire Saturday night and Sunday morning. This is preliminary and subject to change. Click to enlarge.


(UPDATED at 4:55 p.m. PST December 12, 2017)

At a town hall meeting about the Thomas Fire at San Marcos High School today, officials provided updated information.

The fire made a major run during much of the day on Sunday, adding an estimated 50,000 acres which could bring the total size up to around 225,000 acres by the end of the day. This would make it the 5th largest in recorded history of the state. These numbers are subject to verification by aerial mapping scheduled for Sunday night.

Town Hall meeting Thomas Fire
Town Hall meeting about Thomas Fire, 4 p.m. December 12.

An additional 100 fire engines were ordered for the Santa Barbara area.

The live broadcast was hosted by VCFD_PIO on Periscope.

By the numbers:

Structures Threatened: 15,000
Structures Destroyed: 754
Structures Damaged: 162
Engines: 611
Water Tenders: 31
Helicopters: 30
Hand Crews: 55
Dozers: 51
Total Personnel: 4435


(Updated at 9:51 a.m. PST December 10, 2017)

New evacuation orders have been issued for areas in Santa Barbara County as the Thomas Fire aggressively spreads further west. Saturday afternoon it moved into the county north of Carpinteria putting up massive convection columns of smoke Saturday night and Sunday morning as strong winds and very low humidity persisted throughout the night.

The fire continues to burn actively to the north, east, and west threatening structures in parts of the cities of Ventura, Ojai, Casitas Springs, Santa Paula, Carpinteria, Fillmore and the unincorporated areas of Ventura County and Matilija Canyon. It is expected to spread towards Sespe Wilderness and the Sespe Condor Sanctuary.

CAL FIRE reported Sunday morning that the Thomas Fire has burned 173,000 acres and destroyed 537 structures, damaging 118 others.

thomas fire map december 10 2017
Map of the Thomas Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 9:30 p.m. PST December 9, 2017. The white line was the perimeter 24 hours before.

The latest information about evacuations is at the Santa Barbara County website, but generally, as of 7 a.m. Sunday, the new area is “north of Highway 192, E. Valley Road, east of Buena Vista Drive, to include the 900 block of Park Lane, is a mandatory evacuation zone. Everything south of Highway 192, E. Valley Road, east of San Ysidro, is under a voluntary warning order.” (map) An evacuation shelter has been established at the UCSB Recreational Center, 516 Ocean Road, Santa Barbara.

The weather continues to be a challenge for firefighters. The Sunday forecast call for a Red Flag Warning including winds northeast at 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph. And on Monday, 15 to 20 mph with gusts to 35 mph.

Firefighters Thomas Fire
Firefighters on the Thomas Fire at 4 a.m. PST December 10, 2017. Photo by Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Thomas Fire continues to march to the west

The fire has burned 155,000 acres near Ventura, Carpinteria, and Ojai in Southern California. Ventura County Fire Department reports 600 structures have been destroyed.

Above: The red line was the perimeter of the Thomas Fire at 9:30 p.m. PST December 8. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 12:45 p.m. PST December 9, 2017.

(UPDATED at 6:52 p.m. PST December 9, 2017)

The 155,000-acre Thomas Fire has moved into Santa Barbara County near Divide Peak. Late Saturday afternoon the Incident Management Team reported that 460 structures have been destroyed in the city of Ventura and another 140 in the rest of Ventura County.

Most of the growth of the fire Friday night and Saturday morning was on the west side. The east side northwest of Fillmore was also active and air tankers and helicopters were used with good results there Saturday.

As the fire moves closer to Carpinteria 50 engines have been staged in the city and preparations are being made to protect structures and construct firelines. The fire is about 5 miles northeast of the intersection of Highways 1 and 150 on the east side of the city.

An unmanned aerial aircraft is being used to provide a live video feed to firefighters.

About 4,400 personnel are assigned to the fire and a large order for additional resources was placed today. The estimated costs to date are $25 million.


(UPDATED at 5:45 a.m. PST December 9, 2017)

The Incident Management Team reports that the Thomas Fire has destroyed 476 structures and burned 143,000 acres. Some mandatory evacuation orders have been lifted but many are still in place for some locations in the Ventura and Ojai areas.

On Friday the fire was very active across most of the north side, west of Lake Casitas, and northwest of Fillmore. It is expected to spread towards Santa Barbara County, Sespe Wilderness and the Sespe Condor Sanctuary.

Temporary residential access will be permitted on Saturday 12/9/17 and Sunday 12/10/17 during the hours of 9:00 am and 4:00 pm for residents who live in the areas affected by the Thomas Fire.  The access will be by escort only.  A check-in tent will be set up in the parking lot of Temple Beth Torah located at 7620 Foothill Road.  Residents must be able to show proof of residency (Driver’s License, Utility Bill, etc.) to be permitted to enter.  Entry will be limited to 2 persons per household.  Personal vehicles will not be allowed into the area.  Residents will be driven to their home and allowed a 15-minute period of time to get personal necessities (clothing, medication, etc.). For safety purposes, access will not be permitted to home sites which have been destroyed or sustained damage that poses a safety risk.


(UPDATED at 5:24 p.m. PST December 8, 2017)

The Ventura County Fire Department has revised the number structures destroyed in the Thomas Fire from 91 to 401.

Friday afternoon the fire was very active on the north side — north of Wheeler Springs, and on the east side northwest of Fillmore. It was fairly quiet around Ojai with the exception of a controlled burnout to help tie in some fireline south of the south end of Boardman Road.

(All articles on Wildfire Today about the Thomas Fire are tagged “Thomas Fire”.)

The 747 airtanker that dropped about 57,000 gallons of fire retardant on the Thomas Fire today is under contract to CAL FIRE.


(Originally published at 10:40 a.m. December 8, 2017)

The 132,000-acre Thomas Fire is far from being contained. Over the last two days it has been spreading to the west, almost enveloping the city of Ojai and growing closer to Carpinteria as it burns near the Pacific Ocean.

3-D wildfire ventura thomas fire ojai
This 3-D view of the Thomas fire is looking east over Ojai, California. The (red) fire perimeter was valid at 11 p.m. PST December 7, 2017.

(All articles about the Thomas Fire on Wildfire Today are tagged “Thomas Fire”.)

These numbers will no doubt change in the next week or so, but officials report that 73 residential, 3 commercial and 15 outbuildings have been destroyed, mostly in the Ventura area.

This huge “megafire” is being fought with 471 engines, 28 hand crews, 12 helicopters, 26 dozers, and 7 water tenders, for a total of 2,509 personnel.

thomas fire wildfire map ojai ventura
The red line on the map of the Thomas Fire was the perimeter at 11 p.m. PST December 7, 2017. The white line was the perimeter about 24 hours before. Click to enlarge.