Thomas fire becomes one of the largest in California’s history


Sydney Gibson, Staff Writer

Southern California’s Thomas fire started to burn on December 4 and quickly became the fourth largest wildfire in the state’s history.  


It began in Ventura County, Santa Paula and has burned over 242,500 acres (379 square miles), destroyed 972 buildings, including more than 700 homes, and damaged 258 buildings. 


 As a result, the wildfire is not just the fourth largest, but also the eighth most destructive fire in California’s history. Although, the state has only been keeping record of such events since 1932. 


 The fire was reported to be only 30% contained as of Dec. 14 and authorities have stated that they expect the fire to be 100% contained by Jan. 7. Although, because the Thomas fire is only one of six major wildfires burning in Southern California this December. Resources are spread thin and firefighters are working long hours to protect the forests and the homes of thousands. 


 8,000 firefighters were on the front lines Thursday trying to contain the wildfire that has already cost an estimated $74.7 million. Nearly 1000 fire engines, 33 helicopters and 8 planes are involved with the Thomas fire alone. 


 Firefighters are currently trying to protect Santa Barbara County, however, high winds are expected and could cause the fire to spread at an even faster rate and to more areas.  


 If the conditions get bad enough the firemen will be forced to have controlled burns in a last attempt to contain the blaze. The goal with controlled burns in this situation would be to get rid of flammable underbrush and scorch the trees enough so that when the Thomas fire reaches those areas it will burn out. 


 If the fire cannot be redirected or prevented from reaching Santa Barbara and Montecito, it could burn 62,000 buildings at an overall worth of $46 million and put a quarter of a million citizens at risk. 


“When the wind starts pushing it, we can throw everything we have at it and it’s not going to do any good,” stated Mark Brown, an operations section chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. He fears the possibility of high winds occurring over the next few days. 


32-year-old Cory Iverson, an engineer for Cal Fire in San Diego, died in the morning of Dec. 14. The only other death was that of Virginia Pesola, 70, who was in a fatal car accident while evacuating last week. 


California Fire Chief Ken Pimlott stated, “Please join me in keeping our fallen firefighter and his loved ones in your prayers all the responders on the front lines in your thoughts as they continue to work under extremely challenging conditions.” 


The Thomas fire has become such a large and destructive wildfire due to the dry conditions and wind patterns of the past week. The weather forecast does not offer hope, little to no rain is reported to fall by the end of the year. 


“We need the weather to shift. We need the moist air. We’re only about a mile from the ocean, and to be this dry, this close to the ocean is an anomaly,” stated battalion chief Ron Mclaughlin of Carpinteria, “Schools are closed, finals at the University of California Santa Barbara have been rescheduled and people are walking around in areas that haven’t been evacuated with surgical masks to protect themselves from the smoke.”