Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Jake Johnson: ‘It’s a Monster’ — California’s Thomas Fire Now Largest in State History

California’s Thomas Fire has been raging for just over two weeks in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and it has already torn through hundreds of homes, more than a thousand structures, and over 273,400 acres of land. Now, as the Los Angeles Times reported late Friday, the fire has also burnt “its way into the history books,” becoming the largest blaze ever recorded in the state’s history.

“The fire eclipsed the 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego County, which burned 273,246 acres,” the Times notes.

“The Thomas Fire has burned an area larger than New York City, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco combined—and larger than any city in California except Los Angeles,” adds CNN‘s Nicole Chavez.

As of Friday night, the fire was just 65 percent contained, and firefighters are expected to be working around the clock until mid-January. President Donald Trump has yet to issue a major disaster declaration for Southern California.

“It’s a monster,” Santa Barbara County Fire Division Chief Martin Johnson told ABC News. “We all recognize that. But, we will kill it.”

Fueled by powerful winds and extraordinarily dry conditions, the Thomas Fire is just one of many blazes that have ravaged California in recent weeks, forcing hundreds of thousands to evacuate and killing dozens.

Friday’s “milestone reaffirmed 2017 as the most destructive fire season ever in the state,” the Times observes, highlighting a series of fires in the state’s wine country that destroyed more than 10,000 homes in October. Meteorologist Eric Holthaus has described the conditions surrounding California’s fires as “once-in-a-generation.”

Making the Thomas fire’s strength even more striking, environmentalist and author Bill McKibben noted, is the fact that it broke out “in December, months after the traditional end of fire season.”

Earlier this month, just days after the Thomas fire kicked off, the Los Angeles Times editorial board starkly warned that the unprecedented 2017 fire season could quickly become the new normal if action isn’t taken to address and mitigate the human-caused climate crisis.

“What should make Southern California fearful is that climate change could mean a future of more frequent and more intense wildfires,” the Times concluded. “Today’s fires will end, and what we do afterward—assessing how to better prepare, and how and whether to rebuild—will influence the damage from the fires next time.”


First published in Common Dreams. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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Firefighters monitor a section of the Thomas Fire along the 101 freeway on December 7, 2017 north of Ventura, California. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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