Thomas Fire capping busy year for firefighters

Many sent to incidents across the state

CACHUMA LAKE, Calif. - The Santa Barbara County Base Camp for the Thomas Fire burning for two weeks is where weary firefighters go to rest, recharge and get ready to go back to work.

The sundowner wind event on Saturday morning that blew up the Thomas Fire above Santa Barbara and Montecito kept hundreds of firefighters on the ground busy well into the night.

"We kind of had a bend don't break philosophy and that's what we did", said Cal Fire Captain Sean Norman from Butte County, "we took the push from the fire and we pushed back and once that wind let up we immediately went after it with our hand crews and our dozers to try and get around the place where it pushed us."

Capt. Norman and the 200 firefighters under his supervision returned to the Cachuma Lake Base Camp after a 24-hour shift on the fire lines.

It is at the Base Camp where firefighters are de-briefed on their work and its impact on the fire, then briefed on their next assignment when they return to duty.

It's also where they eat, sleep and prepare to go back to work.

"We have showers, we have laundry here so they can wash their clothes, they have food, we pretty much have everything set up", said Thomas Fire Public Information Officer Chantel Herrick with the U.S. Forest Service, "we get mail here, they can send mail out, so it is like a little city."

For many of the firefighters assigned to the Thomas Fire, 2017 has been a very long and exhausting year on the job.

"Most of us were in Sonoma and Napa Counties at the end of October and prior to that we had significant fires up and down the state", Norman said of the year he's had, "where I work in Butte County we had the Spillway Incident back in February that one of our command teams was deployed on, so its just kind of been, go, go, go and so it'll be nice if we get a break."

Norman said everything that can be done to fight and contain the Thomas Fire is being done and is being led by some of the best in the business of fighting wildfires.

"California has the most robust firefighting entity in the world when we all come together, our mutual aid system is unparalleled", Norman said, "truly we have some of the best firefighting minds and people in the world, that work in this state and all the different agencies and you have them all here, so you couldn't ask for a better team."

"We'll take advantage of the next three days of quiet weather and we will pour everything we have at this thing to try and get around it", Norman added.

There are about 8,500 firefighting personnel currently assigned to the Thomas Fire.

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