Above: Santa and Mrs. Claus greet firefighters during the Christmas Eve morning briefing on the Thomas Fire. Photo credit: Ventura County Fire Department.
(Originally published at 8:38 a.m. PST December 24, 2017)
Many veteran firefighters in California have stories about spending Thanksgiving on wildfires. Fewer have experienced Christmas on a large fire. But today, on Christmas Eve, over 2,500 are working on the Thomas Fire that has become the largest in the recorded history of California — 273,400 acres so far. It started in December and is only 78 percent contained.
The southern boundary of the fire from Santa Barbara to Ventura is contained and secure. Thanks to shorter days and a lack of strong winds the Incident Management Team does not expect any additional significant spread of the fire, other than strategic burning to secure the fire edge.
The planned 20,000-acre firing operation that would have removed fuel and secured approximately 17 miles on the north side apparently was halted by the weather, including a few snow flurries. That area is still shown as uncontrolled on the Team’s map. But on Saturday firefighters conducted firing operations on the northern flank along Cherry Creek Road near Highway 33 to keep the fire from moving to the north.
All articles on Wildfire Today about the Thomas Fire are tagged “Thomas Fire”.
The blaze would have been much larger if it had not burned into previous fires, including the 2009 Jesusita, 2007 Zaca, and 2006 Day Fires. If the weather had not changed, the 2002 Wolf Fire would have assisted in controlling it on the north side near Highway 33.
Saturday at 6:00 p.m. responsibilities were transferred to California Interagency Incident Management Team 3 under the leadership of Incident Commander Mark Von Tillow. Most fire suppression activity is now on National Forest System lands.
There are currently no mandatory evacuation orders in effect. Residents on Highway 33 between Rose Valley north to Hartman Ranch remain under a voluntary evacuation warning due to fire activity in the nearby areas.