Staff Report

The thousands of fire personnel from several western states and many counties throughout California enjoy a much needed break from the ever growing Thomas Fire that is continuing to rage into Santa Barbara County Tuesday.

The fire is currently at 234,200 acres and has destroyed 889 structures and damaged an additional 182, according to fire officials.

“We work in 24 hour cycles and getting to come to Cachuma to rest and eat a hot meal and take a shower has been great. I come to this area for mountain biking and have camped here before, I hope to come back soon not fighting a fire,” said Amy Horst, of Beverly Hills Fire Department.

Horst and Cpt. Glenn Pinson, who is ending his 28-year career in firefighting on Dec. 29, said they are happy to help the fire efforts and with structure protection.

“This is definitely one of the largest fires I’ve been on, and a big way to end my career on one of the largest fires in California history,” Pinson said.

Thomas Fire map as of Tuesday afternoon. Photo contributed

Horst and Pinson are two of more than 6,946 personnel fighting the week-long fire that has been estimated at costing more than $48 million. There are 912 engines, 50 water tenders, 27 helicopters, 125 hand crews, 67 dozers and others assigned to the area. Some crews that came in to refuel and get a few minutes of rest were from as far away as Oregon and Arizona. Some were taking naps on cots, others were taking a moment to call family and friends, others were reading or taking a walk around the campground and picking up a few items at the Cachuma Lake General Store.

The fire is burning west along the Santa Ynez Mountains and is forecasted to move into the Sespe Wilderness. The hashtag #ThomasFire had many people from Santa Barbara posting flare ups that could be seen from the Santa Barbara Harbor behind Montecito and Carpinteria.

“The flare-ups seen to the east of downtown Santa Barbara and the Riviera are being monitored and do not currently pose a threat. The fire is feeding on unburned fuels within the current parameter. Expect to see similar conditions throughout the night. Firefighters anticipate this fire behavior. Fire is more visible at night and appears closer than it is. Firefighters continue to remain in place providing structure defense in the affected area,” said Santa Barbara County Emergency Operations in a press release.

Air quality conditions remain in effect and many organizations and businesses were passing out face masks into northern Santa Barbara County. Direct Relief, a disaster relief nonprofit based in Santa Barbara have dished out thousands of masks in the last few days.

“We will continue to replenish various places like YMCA’s, shelters and other places as they are needed. Especially children’s sizes have been asked for a lot in the last few days,” said Andrew Fletcher, of Direct Relief.

Due to the air quality warnings in place from the ash and smoke blowing into the Santa Ynez Valley, many school districts have closed until after the winter holiday break. Students at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School say they understand it isn’t safe to be at school with the air quality, but are glad for more time to study for finals or enjoy a few more days off.

“Personally, since my dad is apart of the fire and he gives me updates, I have been noticing the public overreacting about air quality and the amount of ash. I’m glad that finals were postponed until after Winter break because we, the students, had lost time to prepare for the finals when school was canceled for two days,” said Charli Childers, 15, a sophomore at the high school.

Jake Gildred, 14, and a freshman at the high school, said postponing the finals in his opinion is bad because he had been preparing to take them before break.

“I was hoping to get more review days with my teachers and now that the finals are postponed, I feel like I will be going into my finals unprepared after break,” Jake said.

Dunn School closed their doors at the end of last week, and other districts that are closed are Ballard, Buellton, College, Christian Academy, Family, Los Olivos, Solvang, Santa Ynez Charter, and Vista de las Cruces until January, 2018. Check with your child’s school district for when they are set to return.

The Stuart C Gildred Family YMCA is currently open with regular hours – conditions permitting.
All group exercise classes are cancelled and the pool use through Dec. 12. All swim lessons are cancelled for the remainder of December. Afterschool care will be cancelled the remainder of December as most schools are closed.
School’s Out Care will be offered this week for $30 per day to all members and community members. Space is limited, registration must be done in person at the YMCA membership services desk. The program will be offered 8:00 am – 5:30 pm
N95 masks are no longer available on Tuesday, Dec. 12.
The Y will be closed on Friday 12/15 for branch clean-up day, but School’s Out Care will be offered.

“We are opening our doors for free to anyone one in the community in need to use our facilities including showers, the pool, classes, child watch and more until December 31st, providing Red Cross staff and volunteers, firefighters and police with a free place to shower,” said Tommy Speidel, of the YMCA.

If you have any questions, please 805-686-2037 or contact Speidel at or contact the membership services desk.


Click here for the latest Santa Barbara County emergency information and sign up for alerts through Aware & Prepare here.

SYV Star intern Kyah Corff contributed to this report.