Three incidents in one night on the Thomas Fire

Four crews had to retreat, and four vehicles were damaged by the fire

On December 10 about six days after the Thomas Fire started it made a significant run to the west while pushed by strong Santa Ana winds. According to a “Blue Sheet” released by CAL FIRE, two strike teams of hand crews, which would normally be four crews of 12 to 20 persons each, had to retreat to a safer area. The report says they went to a “temporary refuge area”, TRA, which is a new term.  This is unlike a safety zone where firefighters could stage without a risk of fire impingement or the need for a fire shelter.

In this first incident one of the emergency crew transport (ECT) vehicles sustained minor heat damage when its route was blocked by another ECT.

In two other unrelated incidents on the fire that night involving staged equipment, a dozer and an all-terrain vehicle were damaged by the fire and an excavator was destroyed.

sheet thomas fire accident


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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

6 thoughts on “Three incidents in one night on the Thomas Fire”

  1. Aloysius,

    Thank You for providing some clarity. This site should be for providing a good exchange of information that is helpful to us all rather than a place to bash agencies.



    “Temporary Refuge Area (TRA) – a preplanned area where firefighters can immediately take refuge for temporary shelter and short – term relief without using a fire shelter in the event that emergency egress to an established Safety Zone is compromised. Examples: lee side of structure, inside of structure, large lawn or parking area, cab of apparatus.NOTE: Although Safety Zones and viable Escape Routes shall always be identified in the WUI environment, they may not be immediately available should the fire behavior increase unexpectedly. Often a Temporary Refuge Area (TRA) is ore accessible in the WUI environment. A TRA will provide temporary shelter and short-term relief from an approaching fire without the use of a fire shelter and allow the responders to develop an alternate plan to safely survive the increase in fire behavior.” Page 3

  3. Been to many a CDF and now CalFire events over the years.

    I’ve noticed more CalFire crews blistering paint and getting too close to danger. I know they get a lot of urban interface and make great saves, but the culture seems to be getting more risky.

    Seems other than the Golf crews (inmates) ground pounding isn’t really a priority anymore, it’s the Charlie strike teams that park between the flames and structures and hope for the best.

    I’ve never thought blistered paint was a badge of honor or courage, rather an indicator of hanging a a little too much out there.

  4. Another example of CalFire making things up in order to buy into their own hype and continue to ignore the fact that their tactics and training are extremely flawed. At least this will ensure a second season of their show on Netflix


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