The largest wildfire in the history of California is now contained. While the Thomas wildfire hasn’t drawn much publicity over the last few weeks, it was still officially a wildfire. It is now 100 percent contained. Northwest Los Angeles County, as well as Santa Barbara County and Ventura County, suffered the brunt of the Thomas fire.
Closures still exist at the Los Padres National Forest. As it stands, this area is not safe to enter. The monster Thomas wildfire started back on December 4th and ended up burning an area as large as Los Angeles itself. That’s 440 square miles of devastation suffered as a consequence of the Thomas fire. More than 1,000 structures were burned to a crisp. There were two deaths, including 32-year-old firefighter Cory Iverson. Iverson was working inside of a firebreak when he suddenly found himself surrounded by smaller fires and was unable to escape. Iverson was the only firefighter of five unable to escape the fires that day. If you live in wildfire country, check out our how to survive a wildfire guide (and maybe, even if you don’t).
New storms have served to help squash the flames fanned by the raging wildfires, but that’s also had the negative effects of recent mudslides, one in Santa Barbara has already taken 19 lives. Five others remain missing.
Santa Barbara officials have worked hard in clearing out drainage systems in the area. The Thomas fire left the grounds surrounding mountainous Santa Barbara primed for mudslides. More storms could result in more mudslides in the region due to the dry, charred grounds left by the Thomas fire.
“We have got to get those basins cleared as fast as we can,” Rob Lewin, director of the Santa Barbara County Emergency Management Officials told a press conference Saturday.
“If we don’t get those debris basins cleared out then we’re not going to be prepared for the next storm and we don’t know what that storm is going to look like.”
California’s Department of Transportation has taken the unprecedented measure of shutting down the 101 freeway, a major thoroughfare through California, Oregon, and Washington, due to increased mudslide risks. The freeway reportedly has “massive amounts of water” on it and there is no set date to reopen it. Officials are waiting for the water to recede before deeming it safe for travels.
Central California does appear to be entering a dry weather pattern for the next week, which is good news to residents who may need to take some prepper precautions for any new rainstorms beyond that.