Information collected for this timeline was taken from a variety of sources including the Ventura County Fire Department, City of Ventura, Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, local and national news agencies, Facebook, and Twitter. Thomas Gorden, the user behind the Twitter account @VCScanner, proved a valuable resource for information as the fire began Monday, Dec. 4.

monday, dec. 4

6:28 p.m. – A brush fire is reported north of Steckel Park, near Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula

6:33 p.m. – The fire is approximately 50 acres and threatening homes in the area.

6:37 p.m. – Families in the area are asked to evacuate as the fire continues to grow.

6:45 p.m. – Heavy smoke closes a portion of Highway 150.

6:53 p.m. – The fire is now known as the Thomas Fire and has grown to 100 acres.

7:31 p.m. – The Thomas Fire grows to over 500 acres, driven by 50 mph winds as it hops the 150 toward Santa Paula.

8:00 p.m. – The Thomas Fire grows to over 2,000 acres and threatens portions of Upper Ojai as it moves westward. Over 500 homes are under mandatory evacuation orders.

8:50 p.m. – Aircraft fighting the Thomas Fire have been grounded due to high winds.

9:43 p.m. – The fire is now over 5,000 acres and residents in East Ventura are now under mandatory evacuation orders. The only known fatality to date from the Thomas Fire, Virginia Pesola, 70, of Santa Paula, is believed to have been in the accident that killed her while evacuating.

10:00 p.m. – Much of the city of Ventura loses power as the Thomas Fire destroys Southern California Edison powerlines feeding the area. Residents as far as Goleta are without power as well; 107,000 are said to be affected.

10:45 p.m. – The Thomas Fire is now over 10,000 acres and threatens the city of Ventura. Flames can be seen behind City Hall and in Grant Park.

11:10 p.m. – The fire has grown to an estimated 20,000 acres.

11:40 p.m. – Mandatory evacuations are underway in Ventura as the fire reaches Ventura Avenue. The Harbor View Apartments, as well as the Hawaiian Village apartments, are engulfed in flames.

11:55 p.m.  – The fire has exploded to over 25,000 acres.

tuesday, dec. 5

12:10 a.m. – Evacuation begins at Vista Del Mar psychiatric hospital on North Ventura Avenue. The Clearpoint and Ondulando neighborhoods in eastern Ventura are being significantly impacted. Ventura Avenue from Main Street to Canada Larga Road has been designated mandatory evacuation. Homes behind City Hall in downtown Ventura are threatened.

1:10 a.m. – Multiple homes on fire in the city of Ventura as the fire continues to grow.

2:28 a.m. Ventura County receives Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to combat the fire as flames reach Creek Road south of Oak View. Reports of fire at the Pepsi Plant on North Ventura Avenue emerge, as well as a fire near Patagonia headquarters on East Main Street.

2:30 a.m. – Vista Del Mar is consumed by flames and is a complete loss.

3:00 a.m. – Reports of fire hydrant failure in East Ventura preventing firefighting efforts due to loss of power and low pressure.

3:40 a.m. – The Thomas Fire is now at 31,000 acres. Over 150 structures have been reported destroyed and 27,000 people have been evacuated.

3:44 a.m. – The Creek Fire is reported in Los Angeles County, forcing resources from L.A. to report back home, stretching the firefighting capability in Ventura County.

6:40 a.m. – The Thomas Fire is now over 40,000 acres with 0 percent containment. Outlook is not good for firefighting efforts as strong Santa Ana winds persist.

10:00 a.m. – Mandatory evacuation issued for Casitas Springs as the fire rages toward Oak View and Ojai.

11:31 a.m. – The Rye Fire is reported in West Valencia, threatening to push westward toward Simi Valley.

11:40 a.m. – Gov. Jerry Brown declares a state of emergency in Ventura County.

Noon – Four shelters established in Ventura are busy, including the Ventura County Fairgrounds, the largest. The Fairgrounds are also the staging center for firefighting efforts.

12:15 p.m. – The Thomas Fire jumps Highway 33 and begins to steadily crawl Red Mountain.

1:30 p.m. – The Thomas Fire is now 50,000 acres, or 70 square miles.

1:57 p.m. – Residents in Simi Valley are asked to prepare for evacuation due to the encroaching Rye Fire.

2:00 p.m. – Voluntary evacuations begin in Fillmore as the Thomas Fire expands toward the city along Highway 126.

10:24 p.m. – The city of Ventura issues a mandatory curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. nightly. A boil water advisory is issued for the entire city of Ventura, Upper Ojai, Casitas Springs and Foster Park due to pump failure at the Casitas Municipal Water District.

11:15 p.m. – Mandatory evacuations are ordered for La Conchita as the fire heads north.

wednesday, dec. 6

6:31 a.m. – The Skirball fire is reported in Los Angeles along the 405 Freeway near the Gettiy Center, threatening homes.

7:36 a.m. – Federal Emergency Management Agency approves Fire Management Assistance Grants for assistance in combating the Thomas, Rye and Creek fires.

8:11 a.m. – President Donald Trump Tweets his thoughts and prayers.

8:52 a.m. – The Thomas Fire is now 65,000 acres and remains 0 percent contained.

12:22 p.m. – Over 50,000 people have been evacuated from affected areas, with six shelters taking in evacuees.

1 p.m. – The Ventura County Fire Department issues a hazardous air quality warning for Ventura, Oxnard and Camarillo as offshore winds blow smoke from the Thomas Fire back inland. The smoke plume can be seen from Los Angeles, and the smoke itself can be seen all along the West Coast to Canada.

2:24 p.m. – The Rye Fire, burning east of Simi Valley, is at 7,000 acres but not expected to adversely affect the city.

4:34 p.m. – Mandatory evacuation ordered for Casitas Vista as the fire moves west. The Ventura County Behavioral Health Center deploys crisis teams to area shelters.

5:00 p.m. – Ojai, Ventura unified school districts announce closure for remainder of week.

6:21 p.m. – The Thomas Fire is now 90,000-plus acres, with 5 percent containment. Strong Santa Ana winds are expected into the evening that will cause the Thomas Fire to explode in size, threatening the city of Ojai.

9:40 p.m. – Mandatory evacuations are ordered for eastern Ojai north of Grand Avenue.

10:00 p.m. – Ojai Valley Hospital is evacuated. On the eastern front of the Thomas Fire, mandatory evacuations are issued for areas around Toland Road.

10:15 p.m. – Voluntary evacuations are announced for the city of Carpinteria.

10:25 p.m. – Crews experience extreme fire conditions on both the east and west sides of the city of Ojai. Mandatory evacuations are in place for the entire city, including Meiners Oaks.

10:40 p.m. – “#ThomasFire: Evacuate before it is too late. This fire is exploding in size tonight. Help your neighbors, take your pets, help each other.” – @VCScanner

11:19 p.m. – The Thomas Fire has established itself in Matilija Canyon.

thursday, dec. 7

1:10 a.m. – The Thomas Fire begins impacting homes in La Conchita.

1:18 a.m. – The fire has crossed Toland Road toward Fillmore.

1:50 a.m. – The Thomas Fire has jumped the 101 Freeway near Seacliff Road.

3:30 a.m. – Highway 101 is closed in both directions from Ventura to Carpinteria as the Thomas Fire impacts beach communities.

6:00 a.m. – The body of Virginia Pesola is found along Wheeler Canyon Road in Santa Paula.

7:28 a.m. – The Thomas Fire is now 96,000 acres, and the number of homes confirmed lost rises to near 400.

8:00 a.m. – Gov. Jerry Brown pens a letter to Donald Trump asking for a federal state of emergency declaration, and Trump approves the request.

6:07 p.m. – The boil-water advisory is lifted for some of Ventura but remains for Ventura Avenue and beyond.

6:09 p.m. – The Thomas Fire is now 115,000 acres and 5 percent contained. Officially, 439 structures have been destroyed, 427 in the city of Ventura, with 83 damaged.

friday, dec. 8

Debi Otto Dec 5 at 11 am from S Montgomery by Wachters This is the fire breaking behind Persimmon Hill on Creek Road

8 a.m. – The Thomas Fire is now 132,000 acres and 10 percent contained.

9:31 a.m. – The Ventura County Fire Department releases information on units assigned to firefighting efforts: 3,528 firefighters / 21 helicopters / 544 engines / 48 hand crews / dozers 26.

11:47 a.m. – The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department asks residents in the affected areas to wear N95 masks to prevent inhalation of fine particles. Smoke from the fire has blanketed the city of Ventura north to Santa Barbara, where it is reported that ash falls like snow.

3:45 p.m. – Updated numbers reflect the scale of the fire: 87,000-plus people evacuated since Monday evening. The population of the city of Ventura is 110,000.

5:48 p.m. – The Rye Fire is no longer considered a threat.

6:10 p.m. – The Thomas Fire is now 143,000 acres as it moves north into Santa Barbara County.

9:40 p.m. – The boil-water advisory has been lifted on all but areas north of Poli and Foothill Road in Ventura. 

saturday, dec. 9

Photo by Stephanie Briggs

8 a.m. – The Thomas Fire is now 148,000 acres and is estimated to have cost roughly $17 million.

11:47 a.m. – Toland Road Landfill is reported to have been heavily damaged, to the tune of roughly $500,000.

12:28 p.m. – All mandatory evacuation notices lifted in city of Ventura except for neighborhoods north of Poli and Foothill Road.

1:00 p.m. – Gov. Jerry Brown visits Ventura, speaking at the Ventura County Fairgrounds before touring neighborhoods destroyed by the Thomas Fire. “This is the new normal, and this could be something that happens every year or every few years,” he said. “We’re about to have a firefighting Christmas.”

2:56 p.m. – The Thomas Fire has destroyed 537 structures, damaging 118 more. Near to 4,000 personnel are assigned to the fire, and crews from around the state and 15 other western states have arrived to assist.

6:50 p.m. – The Thomas Fire is now 155,000 acres and 15 percent contained as it officially crosses into Santa Barbara county.

sunday, dec. 10

1:41 a.m. – The Thomas Fire has destroyed major power lines, causing blackouts in Carpinteria and Santa Barbara.

2:02 a.m. – Mandatory evacuation notices have been issued for eastern Carpinteria as the fire threatens the city.

6:13 a.m. – Mandatory evacuation notices have been issued for parts of Montecito.

11:43 a.m. – Thomas is now 173,000 acres.

12:32 p.m. – The fire is now the second-largest in Ventura County history, 10th-largest in California state history.

2:04 p.m. – Evacuation advisories issued for parts of eastern Santa Barbara city.

4:24 p.m. – The fire exceeds 200,000 acres, now the sixth-largest fire in California history.

5:00 p.m. – Ventura County Fire Department Capt. Brendan Ripley, a fire behavior expert, says the Thomas Fire is so large that it is creating its own weather.

6:20 p.m. – The Thomas Fire exceeds 230,000 acres; now the largest in Ventura County history and the fifth-largest in the state.

monday, dec. 11

Hazardous air quality forces cancellation of holiday events in Plaza Park and elsewhere in Ventura. Photo by Chris O’Neal

9:30 a.m. – The cost to fight the Thomas Fire: $38 million.

3:27 p.m. – The Thomas Fire is now 230,500 acres; 794 structures have been lost; 6,300 personnel assigned to fighting the fire.

5:12 p.m. – A red-flag warning, which has been in effect since Tuesday, was extended through the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 13.

8:30 p.m. – The Ventura city council votes 7-0 to declare a local emergency, allowing suspension of routine deadlines for use of land, subdivision and zoning applications to speed recovery efforts.

tuesday, dec. 12

9:00 a.m. – The Thomas Fire is now 234,200 acres with 20 percent containment.

12:21 p.m. – Boil-water advisory lifted citywide in Ventura, and a little while later, in Casitas and Upper Ojai as well.

12:52 p.m. – Ventura College is evacuated due to hazardous air quality caused by smoke from the Thomas Fire. The smoke settles in from Ventura to Camarillo, with shifting winds bringing smoke inland.

2:30 p.m. – Red-flag warning for Ventura County is extended to Friday at 10 a.m.

The Ventura Botanical Gardens will take a long while to recover. Photo by Chris O’Neal

3:47 p.m. – The Thomas Fire is now 234,200 acres and 20 percent contained. 794 structures have been destroyed, 187 damaged. Over 6,000 emergency personnel are currently assigned to the fire, with 856 engines, 113 fire crews, 27 helicopters, 67 bulldozers and 48 water tenders.

wednesday, dec. 13

7:44 a.m. – Burned 237,500 acres, 921 structures destroyed, 25 percent contained.