SAN DIEGO – A Cal Fire engineer from San Diego has died in the Thomas Fire, officials said Thursday.
“I am very saddened to report that a firefighter fatality has occurred on the Thomas Incident,” Chief Ken Pimlott said in a news release. “The incident is still unfolding, but in this world of fast moving information, it is important to me that only factual information be shared. To that end, I can confirm a fatality of a CAL FIRE engineer from the San Diego unit has occurred. IMT 4, CAL FIRE Local 2881 and Southern Region leadership are working to support the unit and his family, who have been notified. More details will be made available as they are confirmed. In the meantime, please join me in keeping our fallen firefighter and his loved ones in your prayers all the responders on the front lines in your thoughts as they continue to work under extremely challenging conditions.”
The engineer’s name was not released as of noon Thursday.
The Thomas Fire is now the fourth largest wildfire in California history as it continues singeing hillsides and homes across Ventura and Santa Barbara counties for an 11th day on Thursday.
The fire has burned 242,500 acres — or about 379 square miles — and demolished around 972 buildings, making it also the eighth most destructive wildfire in the state’s history, according to Cal Fire. It has been 30 percent contained since Wednesday night.
Cal Fire’s data does not include fires prior to 1932, when record keeping was less reliable.
The Santa Ana winds that had allowed the flames to swiftly spread to a massive scale have been lingering around since the blaze broke out last Monday, Dec. 4, making the flames difficult to combat. A red flag warning issued by the National Weather Service — meaning fire danger is extreme — is in place through 10 a.m. Friday in the mountainous areas of Los Angeles and Ventura counties and the Santa Clarita Valley.
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The harsh winds have been compacted by low humidity, dry weather and chaparral and steep, hilly terrain.
Around 18,000 structures were still under threat Thursday, forcing 41,200 to evacuate in Santa Barbara County, where the fire has been more active over the past few days after spreading north from Ventura County. Some evacuation orders remain active in Ventura County, as well.
Of the buildings razed, 733 have been homes. Another 175 homes and 18 commercial structures have been…