The Thomas fire in Southern California is officially the largest in the history of the state after burning through 273,400 acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the Associated Press.
The AP notes:
The Thomas fire took only 2 weeks to burn its way into history books as unrelenting winds and parched weather turned everything in its path to tinder – including more than 700 homes.
The fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties had scorched 273,400 acres, or about 427 square miles of coastal foothills and national forest, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
That was 154 acres larger than California’s previous fire record holder – the 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego County that killed 15 people.
The Cedar fire had been recognized as the biggest California wildfire in terms of acreage since 1932. Some fires before that date undoubtedly were larger but records are unreliable, according to state fire officials.
The fire is now 65 percent contained. It is unlikely to expand. The Los Angeles Times notes: “Any new growth on the Thomas fire will probably be due to controlled burns by firefighters.”
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) declared at 6 a.m. on Dec. 23 that the Tomas fire had broken the state’s record on Friday. The previous record-holder, the Cedar Fire, had lasted for 46 days and burned 273,246 acres in San Diego County.
The U.S. Forest Service, in acknowledging the Thomas Fire as the largest in California’s history, asked for donations to victims in recognition that “Christmas is the season for giving!”
The Thomas Fire has destroyed 1,063 structures, damaged 280 structures, and killed two people. It is expected to burn until the second week in January.
Cal Fire reported that since January 1, wildfires have burned 635,000 acres in California’s national forests. Cal Fire ranks the 2017 wildfire devastation “well above both 5 & 10-year averages” by size. But AccuWeather estimates the costs for fighting the fires, property losses, and business interruptions is tracking at an all-time-record of $180 billion.
The stunning financial losses from this year’s fires hves generated debate about the wisdom of California’s decades of extremist conservation efforts that have included virtually zero tolerance for logging and 100 percent suppression of small fires. Penn State researchers found that leaf litter and branches — the components of forest fuel — left to accumulate on the forest floor have resulted ferocious fires that “burn at a higher severity.”
The regional office of the US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service in the afternoon of Dec. 23 posted on its website that hundreds of firefighting crews working the Thomas Fire over the holidays are feeling “well-cared-for” because, “We feel the Love!”.
The Forest Service sought to rise above political correctness and rally donations for victims by featuring on its website: “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and Christmas is the season for giving!”
The USFS added:
The BEST gift you can give us is to give to those in need this Holiday season, especially those folks who have been impacted by the Thomas Fire. Give us a warm smile, a wave, a cute poster by the roadway, but please give your financial support and donated supplies to local assistance organizations.
The firefighters named the following six charities:
Holiday Food Drive: Ventura Unified School District 3777 Dean Dr. Ventura, CA 93003;
FOOD SHARE: 4156 Southbank Road Oxnard, CA 93036
SALVATION ARMY: 3451 Foothill Road Ventura, CA 93001
ARC THRIFT STORE: 265 E Main Street Ventura, CA 93001
HELP OF OJAI: 111 W. Santa Ana Street Ojai, CA 93023
RESCUE MISSION ALLIANCE: 315 N A Street Oxnard, CA 93030