Firefighter Dies Battling Enormous California Blaze

December 14, 2017 Updated: December 14, 2017

A San Diego firefighter was killed battling an enormous blaze in California—called the Thomas Incident—as it continues to burn in parts of California’s Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

“I am very saddened to report that a firefighter fatality has occurred on the Thomas Incident,” a Cal Fire statement read.

Cal Fire Director Chief Ken Pimlott expressed his condolences to the family.

No details on the firefighter’s death were provided in the statement, which was released on Thursday, Dec. 14, on the CAL FIRE Facebook page. In the statement, the serviceman was identified as a “CAL FIRE Engineer from the San Diego Unit.”

“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,” said Pimlott.

Regional firefighting units are also weighing in with condolences.

“This is a sad day for all. We stand shoulder to shoulder with support for our brothers and sisters. Our prayers go out to the families and friends for our shared loss,” a Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit statement reads.

“We stand strong to support our brothers and sisters to the south. Our prayers go to the family, friends and coworkers,” reads another from the Tuolumne-Calaveras Unit.

As of now, the Thomas fire has claimed the lives of two firefighters.

A series of Red Flag Warnings remain in effect in the south, extending into central California due to low chance of rain and high winds.


The 242,500-acre Thomas fire broke out as a brush fire on Monday, Dec. 4. In the last 10 days ablaze, the fire has destroyed 930 structures and damaged another 193, according to Cal Fire.

According to a Cal Fire statement issued on Thursday, Dec. 14, at 9:26 a.m., containment of the Thomas Incident blaze stood at 30%.

Below is a list of the 10 largest wildfires to take place in California after 1932, excluding the complex of wildfires in Northern California called the October Fire Siege. The list is based on a document prepared and published by Cal Fire titled ‘Top 20 Largest California Wildfires

1. Cedar

Cause: Human Related
Date: October 2003
Location: San Diego County
Acres: 273,246
Structures: 2,820
Fatalities: 15

2. Rush

Cause: Lightning
Date: August 2012
Location: Lassen County
Acres: 271,911 California/43,666 Nevada
Structures: None
Fatalities: None

3. Rim

Cause: Human Related
Date: August 2013
Location: Tuolumne County
Acres: 257,314
Structures: 112
Fatalities: None

4. Thomas

Cause: Undetermined
Date: December 2017
Location: Ventura, Santa Barbara counties
Acres: At least 242,000
Structures: At least 900
Fatalities: 1

5. Zaca

Cause: Human Related
Date: July 2007
Location: Santa Barbara County
Acres: 240,207
Structures: 1
Fatalities: 0

6. Matilija

Cause: Undetermined
Date: September 1932
Location: Ventura County
Acres: 220,000
Structures: 0
Fatalities: 0

7. Witch

Cause: Powerlines
Date: October 2007
Location: San Diego County
Acres: 197,990
Structures: 1,650
Fatalities: 2

8. Klamath Theater Complex

Cause: Lightning
Date: June 2008
Location: Siskiyou County
Acres: 192,038
Structures: 0
Fatalities: 2

9. Marble Cone

Cause: Lightning
Date: July 1977
Location: Monterey County
Acres: 177,866
Structures: 0
Fatalities: 0

10. Laguna

Cause: Powerlines
Date: September 1970
Location: San Diego County
Acres: 175,425
Structures: 382
Fatalities: 5

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