Snohomish County fire crews defend homes from raging blaze in CA

It's all hands on deck as crews race to save homes from the most destructive of the Southern California wildfires, including crews from Western Washington.

The Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara County is the largest fire in California, and it’s now the 5th largest in state history. The fire has burned more than 270 square miles and nearly 800 homes and buildings.

On Sunday, the fire triggered new evacuation orders for the Ventura-Santa Barbara county lines, and that’s where some Snohomish County crews are stationed, defending homes.

More than 88,000 people are under a mandatory evacuation order.

Snohomish County Fire District 7 organized the strike team that's at the Thomas Fire, and after two days of driving, the crew of 19 got in Saturday night.

They’re now in the middle of their first 24-hour shift.

“We got up here late last night around 11, got a little sleep, and up this morning about 5:30,” said Jarrod Spence, the deputy fire chief in Gold Bar and a firefighter for Fire District 7. Spence took a few minutes during his shift Sunday to talk via FaceTime with KIRO7.

As of Sunday night, the fire was 10 percent contained.

“That’s the issue they have, those Santa Ana winds coming in, strong gusts, driving this fire,” Spence said.

The crew from Snohomish County is working in newly evacuated neighborhoods to defend homes.

Spence said the flames are a quarter-mile away from the neighborhood he's working to protect.

“We’re prepping houses, making sure they have the best ability to survive the fires,” he said.

The deployment is for 16 days, but that could change. "It depends on the wind, depends on the fire,” Spence said.

The deployment means a tough wait for loved ones back home in Washington.

“They’ve been worried and I've been in contact with them,” Spence said. He says he knows some of his fellow firefighters have it harder.

“Coming down here, especially this close to Christmas, is really hard for other families. We've got a lot of crews here with loved ones at home,” he said.

And yet, they're all there.

“The love of the job and the want to help people,” Spence said. “We know the job that needs to be done.”

More than 4,000 firefighters have been deployed to the fire. Spence said the crews from Washington have fought similar fires in our state and said they are taking every safety precaution and are well-prepared.