Fire News Continues — Thomas Fire grows to 269,000 acres; Firefighter dies; Los Padres National Forest Closed

  • This InciWeb-USGS map shows the footprint of the Thomas fire on December 9, 2017. It has destroyed 710 structures in Ojai, Ventura and Santa Paula so far, damaging 162 more. There have been no injuries to residents or firefighters. The fire is entering the Sespe Wilderness (a California condor sanctuary) and could come toward Lockwood Valley if winds flare up again.

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    This InciWeb-USGS map shows the footprint of the Thomas fire on December 9, 2017. It has destroyed 710 structures in Ojai, Ventura and Santa Paula so far, damaging 162 more. There have been no injuries to residents or firefighters. The fire is entering the Sespe Wilderness (a California condor sanctuary) and could come toward Lockwood Valley if winds flare up again.

  • The Thomas fire continues to move northeastward through Los Padres National Forest land. The Mount Pinos, Ojai and Santa Barbara Ranger Districts have been closed. Please look carefully at this map, the precautionary closure includes all of the Mountain Communities.

    Image 2 of 3
    The Thomas fire continues to move northeastward through Los Padres National Forest land. The Mount Pinos, Ojai and Santa Barbara Ranger Districts have been closed. Please look carefully at this map, the precautionary closure includes all of the Mountain Communities.

  • 10:30 a.m., looking north just before Al Fleming had to exit the freeway due to heavy smoke and zero visibility. [photo by Al Fleming]

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    10:30 a.m., looking north just before Al Fleming had to exit the freeway due to heavy smoke and zero visibility. [photo by Al Fleming]

LOCKWOOD VALLEY, CA (Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017 at 2 p.m.)–The Thomas fire is reported today at 269,000 acres.

LOCKWOOD VALLEY, CA (Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at 4:30  p.m.)– A procession  for Engineer Corey Iverson from Ventura will begin at 10 a.m on Sunday and proceed down Highway 101 to San Diego. Iverson was the first firefighter killed in the Thomas fire

The first resident to die was Virginia Pesola, 70, of Santa Paula who was in a traffic accident while evacuating. The Mountain Enterprise was notified Friday that Pesola also owned a house in Pine Mountain Club. We will be able to independently confirm that on Monday and report more.

LOCKWOOD VALLEY, CA (Friday, Dec. 16, 2017 at 2  p.m.)– The Thomas fire has grown to 259,000 acres, making it now the third largest fire in California history., according to the Associated Press. “Red flag” fire conditions—hot dry and windy—have continued for 13 days in a row on the coastal areas of Ventura and Satna Barbara Counties. The good news is that containment is at 40%. High winds tonight could change that. A shift in winds to the north could bring the fire toward  the Mountain Communities. Please stay alert and prepared. Put together a “go -pack” in case you have to leave suddenly. See suggestions below.

Ventura County animal evacuations finished, animals returning home

LOCKWOOD VALLEY, CA (Friday, Dec. 15, 2017 at 1:22 p.m.)—
The Thomas fire has grown to 252,000 acres, but is rated as 35% contained. The call for places to house evacuated Ventura County animals is over, and animals are being returned to their homes, according to Vicky Belick.

Firefighter fatality reported near Fillmore; second death not in statistics, but also resulted from Thomas fire

LOCKWOOD VALLEY, CA (Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 at 1 p.m.)—A firefighter has been reported to have died in an accident near Fillmore while fighting the Thomas fire. Details are not yet available. This is the first fatality reported in this fire.” Gusty winds have eliminated backburn plans to thin fuels. The fire has increased another 12,000 acres to 242,500 acres. There is good news. The containment level is up to 30%.

*There is some controversy regarding whether the death of Virginia Pesola, 70, of Santa Paula was to be reported as a fire fatality. She was found dead at the site of a car crash on an evacuation route for the Thomas fire. The Ventura County chief medical examiner Dr. Christopher Young said on Friday, Dec. 8 that the blunt force trauma from the crash plus smoke inhalation and thermal trauma were the cause of death. Inciweb and CalFire statistics do not include Ms. Pesola’s death in its  summaries of statistics for the Thomas fire, listing “0” fatalities from the fire up until our press time for The Mountain Enterprise on Wednesday, Dec. 13.

Thomas fire in mountains above Fillmore, near Sespe Condor Sanctuary

Lockwood Valley, CA (Monday, Dec. 11, 2017 at 4 p.m.)— It is wise to put together a go-pak for your family well in advance, because power may be turned out in the event that winds increase in this area and the fire heads this way. Families often have 15 minutes or less to depart.You might be away from your residence for a prolonged period of time. Start by signing up to receive an alert immediately in the case of a threat in your area. Sign up to receive a Ventura County alert here about the fire’s possible move toward Lockwood Valley.  Sign up for ReadyKern Alerts here.  

We learned from the Day fire that when a wind-driven fire leaps toward Lockwood Valley, it can also head from there toward the Pine Mountain community, Lake of the Woods and Piñon Pines. We should all prepare a go-pak. Prepare a bag that contains
•Your identification;
•Your medications;
•Copies of important documents you might need (birth certificates, marriage certificates, health and property insurance documents, etc.);
•Your cell phone chargers;
•Any emergency supplies you need (such as reserve batteries, flashlights, blankets, plus water and food) in the car;
•A change of clothes, and toiletries.

Here is a more specific set of tools that may be very helpful for getting your family prepared, just in case it is necessary to leave quickly.

Thomas Fire information is updated here.

Thomas fire grows to 230,000 acres by Sunday night; containment drops from 15% to 10%

Lockwood Valley, CA (Monday, Dec. 11, 2017 at 6:30 a.m.)—Ventura County Supervisor Kelly Long (who represents Lockwood Valley) sent an email about preparedness for Lockwood residents this weekend. Her Chief of Staff Paul Grossgold called The Mountain Enterprise on Sunday to ask that residents stay informed about the progress of the fire. He suggested they put together preparedness plans and ‘go-packs’ in case evacuation becomes wise.

The “low winds” of the weekend were supposed to be a time for firefighters to be able to catch up with containment of the Thomas fire. But the giant blaze grew 50,000 acres instead, to become the fifth largest fire in California history. By Sunday night its size had expanded, according to incident command, to 230,000 acres—360 square miles, larger than the island of Manhattan, as NPR put it. Containment dropped from 15% to 10%. The burning continues to move northeast.

On the east it is moving toward the Sespe Wilderness and Rose Valley area, which is 14 miles from Lockwood Valley Road. The hills above Fillmore were ablaze Monday morning, PMC resident Rick Throckmorton reported with a startling photo. Please contact Vicky Belick (805.469.0896) if you can provide fenced space for threatened animals that need to be evacuated.

The northern advance of the Thomas fire took it into the beautiful flower farms, neighborhoods and vineyards of Carpenteria and Montecito. The eastern advance moved it over into the Sespe Wlderness of the Los Padres National Forest (LPNF). The Mt. Pinos and Ojai Ranger Districts of the LPNF have been closed to all visitors. The Sespe Condor Sanctuary is threatened.

On the hopeful side, between the Sespe Wilderness and Lockwood Valley there are areas that may serve as natural fire breaks, after earlier wildland fires of the past 10 years have reduced  fuels in these areas.

173,000 acres is new Thomas fire count as winds move it toward Sespe Condor Sanctuary

Lockwood Valley, CA (Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 at 8:41 a.m.)—
Thomas fire update from InciWeb: The fire is expected to spread towards Sespe Wilderness and the Sespe Condor Sanctuary. Moderate Santa Ana winds pushed the fire last night and will continue through early this afternoon, causing the fire to burned actively with significant growth in the Carpinteria area, according to incident command. The count for acres currently burned by the fire has been published by official sources as 155,000 and 173,000 as of this morning. Please contact Vicky Belick (805.469.0896) if you can provide fenced space for threatened animals from Ventura County areas of Ojai and Ventura.

The fire continues to burn actively to the north, east and west. It threatens structures in various parts of the cities of Ventura, Ojai, Casitas Springs, Santa Paula, Carpinteria, Fillmore and the unincorporated areas of Ventura County and Matilija Canyon. “Firefighters continue to work aggressively to protect life and property while working on control efforts around the fire perimeter,” incidnet command reports.

Incident Start Date: 12/04/2017; Incident Start Time: 6:26; P.M. Incident Type: Wildland Fire; Cause: Under Investigation; Incident Location: Santa Paula / Ventura ; Expected Containment: Unknown; Total Acreage: 173,000; Containment: 15% Firefighter Injuries: 0 Civilian Injuries: 0

The Thomas fire is now
at 155,000 acres, bearing northeast

Lockwood Valley, CA (Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017, 8:36 a.m.)— The Thomas fire has grown to 155,000 acres, though wind conditions were relatively quiet Saturday. Containment was at 15% last night. The fire is now spreading northeast  toward Carpenteria and into the Sespe Wilderness, a California condor refuge. That could lead it eventually toward Lockwood Valley if there are intense wind events. Air tankers and helicopters have sometimes been unable to assist due to savage wind and smoke conditions. A list of possible places to evacuate livestock is being compiled. Please contact Vicky Belick (805.469.0896) if you can provide fenced space for threatened animals.

Here are comments from Jeff Zimmerman of Neenach, a retired firefighter and active photographer who has been documenting the Southern California fire events: “The Thomas fire might become well-established in the Sespe Wilderness. With no rain and strong winds, there could be concern about Lockwood Valley , Summerland and Montecito.

Zimmerman said NE winds “with very aggressive fire behavior” are expected today. “Lockwood Valley residents need to keep an eye on this fire in a few days should the Sespie get ripping. Fire will probably surpass 200,000 acres in a few days…. No rain is in sight. This fire can move a long way in the next few days.”

The fire that started December 4 in the Santa Paula area was quickly propelled by 50 miles per hour winds into Ventura and Ojai. It destroyed 710 homes and buildings and damaged 162,  with 15,000 threatened, depending on wind activity in the coming week. Over 200,000 people in the region evacuated, but there have been no injuries reported from the Thomas fire. Zimmerman predicts it could “have good burning conditions” through Christmas.

•The Thomas fire is currently at 148,000 acres with 15% Containment

VENTURA COUNTY (Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, 7 p.m.)— The Thomas fire fire, reported at 148,000 acres,  spread toward Santa Barbara County, Sespe Wilderness and the Sespe Condor Sanctuary. Although a Red Flag Warning remained in effect for the area, for Saturday NE winds diminished in the afternoon hours with week onshore flow developing. Firefighters continue to work aggressively to protect life and property while working on control efforts around the fire perimeter.Active backing fire with short runs  in alignment with topography and wind hampered containment efforts. The fire continues to threaten structures in various parts of the cities of Ventura, Ojai, Casitas Springs, Santa Paula, Carpinteria, Fillmore and the unincorporated areas of Ventura County and Matilija Canyon.

The Thomas Fire is still two mountain ranges away from the Frazier Mountain Communities, but the Mt. Pinos District of the Los Padres National Forest was closed as of Saturday afternoon to prevent individuals from getting trapped in the forest if fires began to spread. See below.

•Mt. Pinos District — Los Padres National Forest closed due to Thomas Fire

LOS PADRES NATIONAL FOREST (Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017 at 4:20 p.m.)—The administrators of the Los Padres National Forest issued a forest order this afternoon prohibiting access on the Ojai, Santa Barbara and Mt. Pinos Ranger Districts, effective immediately.

“The Thomas Fire is actively burning on multiple ranger districts, with separate flanks of the fire continuing to grow and spread rapidly. This closure is being implemented to provide for public safety and will remain in effect until it is safe to reenter the area,” the announcement said.

“We are experiencing unprecedented conditions and fire behavior for this time of year.  Our top priority is the safety of the public, adjacent communities, and our firefighters,” District Ranger Pancho Smith said.

Forest Service law enforcement officers will strictly enforce the closure order, which carries a penalty of $5,000 and/or six months in jail.

• Evacuation sites needed for livestock from Ventura County

Lockwood Valley, CA (Friday, Dec. 8, 2017)— The fires that began on this week as a result of the 50-60 mph Santa Ana wind events in Ventura County, Los Angeles County and San Diego County are continuing. There is now a call from Ventura County seeking safe evacuation locations for livestock from the at-risk zones.

Paul Grossgold, Dist. 3 Chief of Staff for Ventura County Supervisor Kelly Long, is coordinating to try to find places to evacuate livestock from the Ojai / Ventura area.

Dick Albright of Lockwood Valley has volunteered to spread the word. Here is the note from Grossgold:

Hi Dick,
Turns out there is a program for people who have these kinds of resources to register, that way they’re on the list in case of emergency.  The program is called EVERT and the coordinator’s name is Vicky Belick 805.469.0896.  It’s important to be on the list, because in the past there have been unscrupulous people who show up to “help” and end up stealing horses. Vicky is excited about getting more people signed up, so please give her a call.  Paul Grossgold
______________________________________

• Santa Clarita Rye fire blocks Lake of the Woods resident from getting home

Frazier Park, CA (Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 at 3:05 p.m.)—CHP reports that Interstate 5 lanes are open.

Frazier Park, CA (Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 at 2:05 p.m.)—Al Fleming finally made it home by taking Hwy. 14 and Hwy. 138 through Neenach.

Frazier Park, CA (Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 at 1:55 p.m.)—CHP reports that northbound lanes of Interstate 5 must remain closed for the time being.

Frazier Park, CA (Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 at 11:10 a.m.)—To all Mountain residents traveling north through Santa Clarita: Do NOT try to get around this fire to go north through Castaic. Get off the freeway and wait. Or go back to Highway 14 and take it north to Hwy 138, then come back to Interstate 5.

Frazier Park, CA (Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 at 10:57 a.m.)—CHP reports that drivers were turning their vehicles and driving the wrong way on the freeway to escape the fire.

Frazier Park, CA (Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 at 10:56 a.m.)—The Rye fire has jumped Newhall Ranch Road, according to CHP reports.

Frazier Park, CA (Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 at 10:53 a.m.)—The Rye fire in Santa Clarita, which started at about 9:30 a.m., has grown to 200 acres. Interstate 5 is closed in both directions. The fire has been burning north of Newhall Ranch Road and east of the freeway.

Santa Clarita, CA (Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 at 10:47 a.m.)—Al Fleming reports that the fire has jumped Interstate 5 to the west side.

Santa Clarita, CA (Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 at 10:45 a.m.)—Mountain resident Al Fleming was unable to get through Santa Clarita Valley 20 minutes ago as a large brush fire burning along Interstate 5 forced him off the northbound freeway at Newhall Ranch Road.

“It was so thick I could not see the car next to me. It’s really bad,” Fleming told The Mountain Enterprise as he sat in his car on Newhall Ranch Road. “It’s pretty scary,” he said.

Large brush fires are also burning in Sylmar along the 210 freeway and in the Santa Paula/Ventura area.

Those motorists traveling north on Interstate 5 and thinking of taking Hwy 126 out through Ventura should cancel that plan.

This is part of the December 8, 2017 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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