Inferno continues on California coast

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Inferno continues  on California coast“We don’t really have a ‘fire season’ in California any more — it’s ‘fire season’ all year long,” said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Mike Mohler.

With firefighters endeavoring to contain one of the largest fires in state history and an overall brush fire index higher than any in recent memory, the state fire official gave on update on daunting attempts to combat and prevent fires.

While scores of fires are burning across the state, the largest by far is the Thomas Fire in Ventura — which at press time had burned more than 245,000 acres, claimed at least one life, destroyed nearly 1,000 homes and threatened some 18,000 other structures.

The fire broke out in the evening of Dec. 4. At press time containment was at 25 percent, and the cause still under investigation.

Local firefighters have joined the ranks of more than 8,000 personnel from numerous regional, state and federal agencies.

“One of the biggest challenges we are facing is a high tree-mortality rate, coming out of a six-year drought,” said Mohler, who estimated that state wildlands are populated with about 100 million dead trees — yielding explosive fuel on an already treacherous terrain.

Another force to contend with has been the Santa Ana winds, which have expanded the footprint of the fire and challenged efforts to contain the blaze.

Mohler said that one of the ways the public can support firefighter efforts is to evacuate endangered areas and steer clear of impacted roadways wherever possible.

“Remember you don’t need an official to tell you when to evacuate your property. If you feel you are in an unsafe area, it’s time to leave,” he said.

Finally, he said, the greatest tool for fire safety is prevention. “It comes down to common sense, but there are a lot of easy ways to reduce the risks of wildfire.” Having a dragging chain throw off sparks, pulling an overheating engine into dry vegetation or failing to safely extinguish a cigarette all have the potential to start a devastating fire.

“It’s also important to have a defensible space around your home — which gives us our best chance to save it.” (More information is at readyforwildfire.com.)

He also thanked the public, who reached out to firefighters with offers of support.

“I know people always want to do something to help us, but trust me — we are taken care of. The people who really need help are those who have been displaced or lost their homes.”

He noted that the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and many churches are set up to provide food, shelter and other support to the afflicted.

Story First Published: 2017-12-15