On the front lines

Scott Dworkin visited the Ventura County Sheriff‘s Department Air Unit as it battled the Thomas fire


Copter 8 performs a water drop. Of note is the thick smoke, which along with high winds, turbulence, and fire itself, create some of the most challenging flying conditions for firefighting aircraft.
All photos by Scott Dworkin unless noted otherwise

The Thomas fire broke out in the early evening of December 4 near Thomas Aquinas College above Santa Paula at the beginning of what became a prolonged extreme wind event in Southern California. The blaze, fanned by the strong Santa Ana winds and fuelled by dry brush and extremely low humidity, rapidly spread from the foothills above Santa Paula down into the town, progressing to nearby Fillmore, Ojai and out towards the Pacific Ocean and the city of Ventura, where entire neighbourhoods were destroyed. The fire then crossed into nearby Carpentaria, Montecito and Santa Barbara, and at the time AIR International closed for press was burning in remote areas within the Los Padres National Forest.

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