According to Williams Fire Chief and Emergency Services (OES) Coordinator Jeff Gilbert, Colusa County sent two Type 3 (wildland) fire engines and a strike team leader from Williams last week to assist with the fight against the fires around Los Angeles County. They were joined by three engines from Yuba County, Gilbert said.
As of Monday morning, firefighters had made progress on three fires in Los Angeles County, including the Creek Fire, which was 95 percent contained, the Skirball Fire, which was 85 percent contained, and the Rye Fire, which was 93 percent contained.
The strike team from Colusa County is now on the Thomas Fire, already the fifth-largest fire in California’s modern history. The Thomas Fire had burned more than 230,000 acres as of Monday morning, as was just 15 percent contained.
“As far as I have heard, it’s still ripping down there and moving into Santa Barbara County,” Gilbert said, adding that the strike team from Colusa County will rotate out if the firefighting efforts continue to Dec. 19. It looks likely that will be the case.
“I had planned on spending Christmas in Los Angeles, but not like this,” Gilbert said.
According to Cal Fire, severe fire weather will continue to promote significant fire growth further into Santa Barbara County, threatening the communities of Montecito and Summerland. Gusty Santa Ana winds will continue to push the fire to the west, while very low fuel moistures, high temperatures and single-digit relative humidities will support growth on the west and north sides. Gusty northeast winds will cause the fire to threaten areas of the City of Santa Barbara, and evacuation operations will expand as the fire expands.
Arbuckle native Ellie Geyer, who is a freshman at UC Santa Barbara, came home last week to escape the smoke from the Thomas Fire, and brought four fellow students north with her, including one who lives in Los Angeles and couldn’t go home because of the fire. Finals, which were scheduled for this week, have been postponed until UC Santa Barbara students return from winter break in January as a result of the conditions there, Geyer said.
“I was down there the last week on Monday. I was in Isla Vista and the power just went out, and everyone sort of went crazy, all of the college students,” Geyer said. “The power was out all of Monday night, and came back on at 1 AM on Tuesday morning. All we heard is it was due to some fire in Ventura. I woke up Tuesday morning with smoke everywhere. Gradually it got even worse. By Wednesday, it was tested to be very unhealthy. On Thursday, we woke up and it was even worse – ashes falling, and the air was tested to be almost hazardous. Walking to class, everyone was wearing masks and had hoods on, trying not to breathe the air… It was just really crazy. Driving back home, I couldn’t wait to get out of the smoke, but two hours of driving and it was still smokey. It was nice to get back to Arbuckle and breathe some fresh air.”