Thomas Fire: Collaboration and Surveying the Land
The Thomas Fire of December 2017 devastated our community of Ventura County, as well as our neighboring Santa Barbara County. As the largest wildfire in California’s history with 281,893 acres burned, 1,063 structures destroyed, and an additional 280 damaged structures, our hearts were devastated, but it ignited a strong unity within our community.
Once the Thomas Fire passed and the burned areas were deemed safe, a team of Ventura County professionals including VCPWA hydrologists and geologist, the Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) and Health Care Agency (HCA) worked together to perform site reconnaissance to gain information about the potential next disaster with upcoming rain events, such as flooding, high erosion, landslides and debris flows. Together, they collaborated to develop models that would assess the status of the burned hillsides, map the areas most prone to flooding and determine areas prone to mudflows and sliding.
VCPWA, which is comprised of five departments (Central Services, Engineering Services, Transportation, Water and Sanitation, and Watershed Protection District), also had a lot of cross-department collaboration to address the massive recovery efforts.
As soon as the fire finished burning in Ventura County, the county’s sole geologist, Jim O’Tousa from VCPWA Engineering Services Department (ESD) worked with state and federal assessment teams to discuss geologic conditions and provide Ventura County geologic overview and landslide hazard assessment.
Images by Nick Jackson, Mike Morrison and Melina Esparza