For nearly a month, Southern California’s Thomas Fire has torched Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties while receiving no shortage of fuel from the Santa Ana winds. The blaze, which has raged largely uncontained, continued to grow in size until it became the third-biggest blaze in the state’s history about a week ago. Now that Christmas has come and gone, the fire’s still burning bright and has now become the largest wildfire in California record books. And the fight will continue for over 1,600 remaining firefighters on the scene into the New Year.
The LA Times reports that while evacuation centers are closing up shop, and the inferno is now 86% contained, firefighters are expected to keep battling the blaze — which has claimed 281,620 acres, over 1,000 structures, and 2 lives — until at least January 7. The outlet also interviewed one firefighter, Pedro Barba, who detailed how hard it was to be away from his family while holding the line on Christmas morning:
Barba, 35, wore boots covered with soot and ashes, and looked away as he thought of his homesickness and sense of duty. “My family’s not happy, but they understood I love fighting,” he said before calling his son and daughter. Seeing them on a screen was not an option. “If I do FaceTime, I’ll cry myself,” Barba said. “You want to spend Christmas with your family, but you can’t. Not today.”
ABC News reports that, to date, that Cal Fire has calculated the cost of fighting the Thomas Fire at $177 million, and that number doesn’t include the property damage totals that shall surface when the blaze is finally extinguished. Not only that, but the Thomas Fire is only one of around 20 December wildfires to plague Southern California, which saw half a dozen qualify as major blazes. Most of the fires have settled, including Los Angeles’ Skirball Fire that crews managed to tame before cultural landmarks were lost, but sadly, it looks like 2017’s hellish California landscape will carry into 2018.