After ten days, largest of Southern California wildfires continues to rage

 

After ten days, largest of Southern California wildfires continues to rage

By
Dan Conway

15 March 2018

Ten days after it began the Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties continues to burn. It is now the largest fire of the 2017 California wildfire season, having burned through 238,500 acres as of Thursday morning and is now the fifth largest wildfire in state history. Thus far, it has destroyed more than 900 homes and is responsible for at least one death.

At the height of its progress last week, the Thomas Fire had advanced at a rate of nearly an acre per second. In fact, the Thomas Fire was burning so quickly at the time that it fit the definition of a firestorm, meaning a fire strong enough to generate its own storm-force winds. Such phenomena are also produced by large-scale explosives, most notably in the aerial fire bombings of Dresden and Hamburg in the Second World War as well as the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

While firefighters, aided by more favorable weather conditions, had made significant progress early in week to halt the fire’s progress, it still remains only 30 percent contained and personnel are now racing to protect communities in the fire’s path before a shift in powerful winds forecast for the coming weekend. The fire also threatens acres of nearby avocado groves, which would have a devastating effect on the industry if burned.

Mark Brown, operations section chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, warned nearby Santa Barbara residents to prepare for the worst. “When the wind starts pushing it, we can throw everything we have at it and it’s not going to do any good,” he said.

Nearly 250,000 residents in Santa Barbara and Montecito are at risk from the fire’s advance along with 62,000…

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