Chico firefighters join battles in Southern California

Two Chico firefighters fight Southern California blaze

CHICO, Calif. - As winds calm down from the hurricane strength blows seen last week, there's still much work to be done to stop the Thomas Fire.

Thirteen Chico firefighters are working to put out the multiple fires that broke out in Southern California, including some captains and division chiefs. One said it is indescribable how tenacious the flames are, accompanied by those dangerous Santa Ana winds.

CAL FIRE said the Thomas Fire is now the fifth largest wildfire in state history, burning through Ventura County and Santa Barbara County at over 230,000 acres.

It's one of six fires that ignited in Southern Calfiornia over the past week and in just seven days, no fewer than 1400 structures have been destroyed or damaged.

"2017 has been one of the most destructive fire years on record with over 10,000 structures throughout the state," explained Scott McClean, public information officer for CAL FIRE.

So destructive, in fact, that the firefighters in the Northstate and beyond are now saying that California no longer has a true wildfire season.

"Remain prepared and work towards adapting to this new type of season, we don't even call it fire season anymore, take the season out," McClean explained on a Facebook live CAL FIRE update.

"It's all year around," agreed Interim Chico Fire Chief Aaron Lowe.

This would explain why it's December and 13 Chico firefighters are nearly 500 miles from their homes.

"They've had a very active couple of days working in the north part of the Thomas Fire and they're exhausted," Lowe said. "But they're very fortunate that everyone's safe and they're able to help the community they're serving."

Though resources are already scarce in Chico, Lowe said the Chico firefighters are stepping up to help those in dire need of more boots on the ground. "We answer the call when communities need assistance so we send as many resources that we have available to assist them, as they would do for us," he added.

The firefighters staying back are also selfless, working to fill the gaps left by a missing 25 percent of staff. So what can locals do at home to help?

"You will be more successful having a preventative plan than a reactionary plan to mitigate these types of emergencies," Lowe explained. "Having that defensible space, having a fuels management plan. Doing the risk reduction models really allows a community to be safer."

The California Fire Assistance Act was passed in the 1970s to send resources from counties near and far to an area in need. Volunteers from numerous other Northstate agencies made the trip down to Ventura County as well.

Chico Fire estimates they'll be there until just before Christmas.

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