The Ventura County Fire Department (VCFD) has released its Thomas Fire Investigative Report and determined the 2017 wildfire was started by Southern California Edison power lines. According to the report, a high wind event caused the power lines to come into contact with each other in a “line slap”, creating an electrical arc that deposited hot, burning or molten material onto the ground, in a receptive fuel bed, causing the fire. Beginning on the evening of December 4, 2017, the Thomas Fire wreaked havoc in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties as it burned more than 280,000 acres, making it (at the time) the most destructive wildfire in California’s history. Two people were killed, including a firefighter, and over 1,063 homes and structures were destroyed before the firestorm was fully contained on January 12, 2018 and evacuations were lifted. Nearly 9,000 emergency personnel were working the fire at one point, including firefighters and emergency responders who traveled from across the western states to help.
Six weeks after the Thomas Fire began, these communities were devastated once again as torrential rains poured down charred hillsides resulting in deadly flash floods and mudslides. Water, mud and debris invaded neighborhoods in the early hours of January 9, destroying 128 homes, damaging hundreds more, and claiming the lives at least 21 residents in the community of Montecito – the cause of death of each victim identified by the Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Office as “multiple traumatic injures due to flash flood with mudslides due to recent wildfire.” Two people remain missing in the wake of these disasters.