Hundreds of firefighters from throughout Southern California have been fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with the firefighters of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties to tame and break the destructive and deadly Thomas fire, which Cal Fire has classified as the fifth-largest wildfire in California history.
Among the 6,397 fire personnel on the front lines, fire engines from Victorville, Murrieta, Los Angeles and beyond could be seen parked along winding roads, sitting in the command post set up at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.
Some of those firefighters had just finished battling blazes closer to home. Los Angeles-area firefighters were called to help Sunday night as the major fires in Los Angeles County — the Skirball, Creek and Rye fires — were winding down Sunday. More firefighters were to have deployed Monday.
Murrieta Fire & Rescue personnel, who spent several days last week knocking down the Liberty fire in southwest Riverside County, also were deployed north.
Please keep @MurrietaFire in your thoughts and prayers as they assist on the #ThomasFire we wish all these brave men and women safe return to their communities and their families. #community #fire #MutualAid #StaySafe #SantaBarbaraCounty #VenturaCounty #ventura #ojai #SantaPaula pic.twitter.com/q8oWfoe0Ql
— Murrieta Police Dept (@MurrietaPD) December 11, 2017
The steady team of firefighters making their way toward Ventura and Santa Barbara counties is due to an agreement between agencies called mutual aid.
“Mutual aid is an agreement between emergency responders to lend assistance across jurisdictional boundaries,” said Massiel Ladron De Guevara, spokeswoman for the Chino Valley Fire Protection District. “This may occur due to an emergency response that exceeds local resources, such as a disaster or a multiple-alarm fire.”
Chino Valley has a strike team battling the Thomas fire, as well as a water tender at the Lilac fire in northern San Diego County.
In October, the fire protection district also had a strike team in Northern California fighting the deadly series of Wine Country fires that ravaged thousands of acres of land and destroyed 8,889 structures. Personnel on that strike team were made up of some firefighters who had only days earlier left the front lines of the Canyon fire in Corona.
The best-known mutual-aid agreement is California’s Master Mutual-Aid system, according to San Bernardino County Fire Department spokesman Eric Sherwin.
That agreement is put to work through FIRESCOPE, a system developed after Southern California experienced a series of catastrophic fires in 1970. The fires burned for several days across several jurisdictions.
FIRESCOPE organizes resources, which “allows literally thousands of personnel and equipment to be rapidly assigned without overly taxing any one region,” Sherwin said.
A strike team from the San Bernardino County Fire Department was deployed to fight the enormous Thomas fire hours after it ignited Dec. 4. The team is made up of engines from stations in Victorville, Oak Hills, Lake Arrowhead, San Bernardino and Bloomington, Sherwin said.
Two strike teams from the city of Los Angeles were at the Thomas fire Sunday, and units and firefighters from Beverly Hills, Culver City and Santa Monica were in that joint effort. That mutual aid began Dec. 5, a spokeswoman said.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department had seven strike teams assigned to the Thomas fire. In all, at least 100 fire department personnel were there, including bulldozer operators and inmate crews.
The Orange County Fire Authority has sent two strike teams and 10 engines for a total of about 50 personnel to the Thomas fire.
“We have a lot equipment out helping our partner agencies,” Orange County Capt. Larry Kurtz said. “But we still plenty have of equipment and manpower guarding right here at home.”
Along with the help from California agencies, more than 700 firefighters from 10 neighboring states also have made the trek to Ventura County to assist with the battle against all the recent fire, a Cal Fire representative said.
Staff writer Scott Schwebke contributed to this report.
Over 700 firefighters from 10 states are on the front lines of the fires in Southern California. We are grateful for the out of state resources that have provided #mutualaid to us once again. #RyeFire #ThomasFire #CreekFire #SkirballFire #LibertyFire #LilacFire pic.twitter.com/lHn4ChcONt
— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) December 9, 2017
Source: Oc Register