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Thomas Fire Set to Become Largest in CA History

UPDATE 01/03/18 @ 4:49 p.m. – The fire is now 92% contained at 281,893 acres.

Thomas Fire Summary

The Thomas Fire began in Ventura County just north of Santa Paula around 630pm on Monday December 4th. Under Red Flag and Santa Ana Conditions the fire quickly made a push along Hwy 150 to the south and parallel to Hwy126 to the west threatening Santa Paula and Ventura the first night. The fire continued its push west, crossing Hwy 33 and reaching the ocean at Hwy 101 shortly after. Over the course of the next week the fire slowly boxed in Ojai, eventually surrounding it, and pushed its way further west towards the Santa Barbara County line. By this time, the majority of the 1,330 structures impacted already had been. A few days later, the fire used a new round of overnight wind gusts to make a big run on the morning of Sunday Dec 9th, establishing itself above Carpinteria and Montecito. The following Saturday another round of morning winds forced the fire down into the fringe of Montecito, forcing a wall of engines into a several hour battle to push stall its progress. Luckily, by this time over 8,000 firefighters were assigned to the fire, and up to the task of suppression the big morning run. Thanks to their efforts, of the reported 1,300 homes threatened on Dec 16th, only 15 or so were impacted.

thomas progression

Thomas Fire’s progression from Dec 4th (green) through Dec 22nd (red)

Since that push, the fire’s progress has stalled and containment has increased to 65%. Still over the last 17 days, the fire is only 500 acres shy of topping the Cedar Fire for largest in California history. A burn operation is expected to add the acres needed with a few thousand more before all is said and done. Luckily, the firefighters necessary to see the fire out have been halved since the peak last week, but the suppression costs could eclipse last summer’s costly Soberanes fire in well short of the time. The full containment of the historic fire is not expected until after 2018 has begun.

Thomas Fire Major Developments:

  • Yesterday’s wind event produced 50 mph gusts, but fire activity remained minimal.
  • The firing operation was stalled yesterday due to high humidity and some snowfall. It was able to continue in the afternoon, and further firing is planned today for the Rose Valley area.
  • The fire area effectively endured two straight weeks of high to extreme fire weather conditions. Over that period, RH dropped as low as 3-5% and wind speeds were recorded over 60mph.
  • The fire is 500+ acres shy of passing 2003’s Cedar Fire for largest (in terms of acreage burned) in recorded California history.
  • Total fire suppression costs have ballooned to $170 million in just 17 days. It took last year’s Soberanes Fire twelve weeks to cost its total of $236 million.
top ten acres burned

Thomas Fire is 2nd all time in California’s history for acreage burned, but not for long.

Thomas Fire Facts:

  • Location: Fillmore all the way to Santa Barbara, both Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties
  • Size: 272,800 acres (as of 1/3/18 – 281,893)
  • Containment: 65% (as of 1/3/18 – 92%)
  • Fire Behavior: Light fire behavior with interior burning on the northern portions of the fire
  • 1,063 structures have been destroyed and 267 more have been damaged.
  • 18,000 Structures remain threatened.
  • All Mandatory Evacuations have been lifted.
top four ca fires

California’s four largest fires in history (update 01/03/18 : Thomas is now number 1)

Sources:

NIFC.GOV

CalFire Incident Page

Inciweb

Wikipedia – List of California Wildfires

whittier fire smoke

Whittier Fire Prompts Evacuations in Santa Barbara County

Whittier Fire Summary

The Whittier Fire is suspected to have been sparked by an emergency vehicle accident around 1:30 pm Saturday afternoon and quickly spread to vegetation in the middle of the weekend’s red flag warning conditions. Officials stated that temperatures were over 110 degrees at the origin of the fire and within 2 hours the fire had spread to both sides of Highway 154 forcing the closure of the highway and evacuation of area camp grounds. Early on, Whittier Camp was evacuated and it was learned that the nearby Circle V Camp had dozens of children present. That camp was immediately threatened with no transportation for a safe evacuation as their escape route was cut off by the growing fire. In a press briefing today (7/14), several emergency responders shared the harrowing details of the evacuation of the Circle V Camp. The story describes how one Forest Service patrol and one dozer amazingly made it to the 80 camp counselors and children. The heroes assured them that they were safe while helping coordinate their evacuation to safety. A video was also released showing a sheriff’s deputy forced into turning around due to fire activity up the road. A timeline of the events can also be seen here.

whittier fire progression map

Whittier Fire Progression between July 8th and 14th. Now over 13,000 acres.

Whittier Fire Outlook

As you can see from the Santa Ynez Peak webcam below, fire activity has increased significantly today with the return of high pressure. The system is set to bring increased fire activity through Sunday. As the fire has grown this afternoon, the IMT is particularly worried about forecasted gusts of 25-30 mph through passes and gaps in the vicinity of the fire. As a contingency plan, ranch roads, dozer lines, and hand lines have been built and improved upon over the last couple operational periods. The idea here is to create large buffers between Goleta-area homes and the fire area due to the potential for the currently ongoing sundowner winds. Nonetheless, additional Evacuations have been ordered in the last three hours. Reports have significant activity occurring on both east and west sides of the fire, and especially to the south as the fire is headed in three different directions. The fire is actually approaching last year’s Sherpa Fire burn scar near Goleta.

Whittier Fire Evacuations

  • All of Winchester Canyon Road excluding the community of Wagon Wheel, Langlo Ranch Road and Winchester Commons west to El Capitan Ranch Road.
  • Calle Real north to West Camino Cielo from Winchester Canyon Rd on the east to El Capitan Ranch Road on the west.
  • Paradise Road
  • Rosario Park and all of Stagecoach Road
  • Farren Road and Las Varas Canyon Road
Santa Ynez Peak Cam

View looking West from Santa Ynez Peak Cam Friday Afternoon (July 14th)

Whittier Fire Facts

  • As of: July 14th, 2017
  • Location: Lake Cuchuma, Santa Barbara County, CA
  • Size: 13,199 acres
  • Containment: 52%
  • Fire Behavior: Rapid fire spread through thick brush and timber in steep, rugged terrain.
  • Structures Threatened: 1500 (reported)
  • Structures Destroyed: Eight homes and 12 outbuildings have been destroyed
  • Evacuations: Are in still in place
  • Incident Page: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5339/
  • News Article: KEYT Santa Barbara

Sources: Inciweb, KEYT, Los Padres National Forest, http://www.rntl.net/santabarbaracountyfirecams.htm