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Monday, December 18, 2017

Southern California's Thomas Fire grows to more than 270,000 acres

The more than 8,400 firefighters and support personnel assigned to the Thomas Fire northwest of Los Angeles have achieved 45% containment of the blaze, according to information posted today by Cal Fire. Some 366 Oregon firefighters are engaged on the Thomas Fire, including a contingent of 66
Above: Oregon firefighters deployed by ODF
to the Thomas Fire put out a spot fire
threatening an avocado orchard.
firefighters from several ODF districts and the Coos and Douglas Forest Protective Associations.

Despite the containment gains, the Thomas Fire spread over the weekend, growing to 270,500 acres in size. That makes it the third largest in California since at least the 1930s.

ODF's agency representative this weekend spent time in the Santa Barbara area, where the fire made a three-mile advance Saturday. "Due to excellent firefighting, including Oregon task forces, the amount of structures damaged or destroyed was much less than expected," he reported. "The suppression action was intense and impressive, with innumerable small, medium and large spot fires being suppressed in and around heavily populated areas."

The agency representative also commented that, "ODF and Forest Protection Association personnel engaged on the fire continue to perform to a very high degree of skill and professionalism."

Cal Fire reported that to date the Thomas Fire has destroyed more than 750 single-family residence and damaged almost 200 others. Thousands of people have been forced to evacuate in advance of the fire, which is burning in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Some 18,000 structures are still considered at risk from the fire. Much of the fire is burning in the Los Padres National Forest. The forest covers 1.76 million acres of rugged terrain from sea level to more than 8,000 feet in elevation. Popular with hikers, it is also home to a number of rare or threatened species, including the California condor.
Above: Some 25 fire engines are deployed
to the Thomas Fire from several ODF districts
and the Coos and Douglas Forest Protective Associations.
A note on Santa Ana winds
Prolonged Santa Ana winds have fanned the Thomas Fire since it began Dec.4, contributing to its rapid growth and extreme fire behavior. These winds originate as a high-pressure system over the Great Basin and upper Mojave Desert. The cool, dry air sweeps across the deserts of eastern California before funneling through mountain passes and canyons to the Pacific Ocean. Three things happen when Santa Ana winds are blowing: it gets warmer, wind speed increases and humidity plummets, all of which increase fire risk.

For the latest information about the Thomas Fire, visit Cal Fire's incident information page at

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The purpose of this blog is to provide breaking news about wildfire activity on the forestlands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry. We invite you to post questions or comments about current wildfires. Please keep your posts civil and free of profanity.

Current wildfire info

National weather forecasters predictions that Oregon would see above average temperatures and below average rainfall in the summer of 2018 proved true. Almost all of Oregon was abnormally dry this summer, with a majority of the state in moderate to severe drought. Many areas posted record high temperatures or record strings of hot days. These conditions set the stage for potentially large, fast-moving wildfires.

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Protection jurisdiction
The Oregon Dept. of Forestry protects 16 million acres of private and public forestlands from wildfire. This includes all private forestlands in Oregon as well as state and local government-owned forests, along with 2.8 million acres of federal Bureau of Land Management lands in the western part of the state. In total there are about 30.4 million acres of forest in Oregon.

Fire suppression policy
The department fights fire aggressively, seeking to put out most fires at 10 acres or smaller. This approach minimizes damage to the timber resource and fish and wildlife habitat, and protects lives and property. It also saves money. While suppressing large fires can cost millions of dollars, economic and environmental damage from wildfires can be many times greater.


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Oregon Dept. of Forestry's public information officers in Salem, Ore., maintain this blog. During the wildfire season, we spend much of our time reporting on fires and firefighting to news media and the public.