|Above: Firefighters from ODF's Eastern Oregon Area |
pause for a group photo after fighting
the Thomas Fire in Southern California.
The ODF and association firefighters have been engaged on the fire northwest of Los Angeles for almost two weeks. During that time, the Thomas Fire has grown to more than 272,000 acres, almost equal to the 2003 Cedar Fire in San Diego, which has stood as the largest wildfire in California in modern times.
Oregon sent the largest contingent of fire engines and personnel from out of state to help California with the massive blaze, which began on Dec. 4. Earlier this week some 300 other Oregon firefighters deployed to California through the Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal were demobilized.
Unusually prolonged Santa Ana winds spread the fire through rugged terrain in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The lack of significant rainfall in the area since February provided ample dead and dry fuel that carried the fire deep into the Los Padres National Forest as well as nearby communities.
The ODF and association firefighters dug control lines and put out spot fires during their assignment. Their mobilization was part of a mutual-aid agreement that this summer saw California firefighters travel north to help during an especially intense outbreak of wildfires in Oregon.
At the peak of the Thomas Fire, the ODF and association firefighters were part of a virtual army of more than 8,400 firefighters assigned to the fire. Wind-driven flames forced the evacuation of thousands of area residents and destroyed more than a thousand structures, according to Cal Fire’s official information website.