Southern California Thomas Fire Hurt Agriculture

Fires in California Avocado Orchard

The Thomas Fire that burned through Ventura County last December became the largest fire in California’s history, and it led to some major agricultural losses, reports Patrick Cavanaugh (California Ag Today, Clovis, CA). “There were 6,603 acres of avocados, 1,800 acres of lemons, and another 540 acres of oranges, as well as another dozen crops that were affected,” said Henry Gonzales, the Agricultural Commissioner of Ventura County. “Some orchards will have to be replanted while others suffered some isolated damage. One of the things that we've seen is that these orchards actually provided a buffer between the fire and urban areas,” Gonzales said.  “They really saved us quite a bit.” Some of the avocado orchards experienced significant losses. “The very efficient irrigation systems that we have are sadly made of plastic, and so they melted. We are actually looking at two different disasters.” Cavanaugh said they are still suffering from the impacts and effects of the drought. “Everything was very dry, and then we had the Santa Ana winds, which really created the perfect firestorm.” Cattle grazing on the foothills also decreased the fierceness of the fire, by decreasing heavy grass growth, which would have provided more fuel for the fire. Gonzalez said, “The cattlemen and women should be commended for their help in the fire. While there were some losses to fencing, the area agricultural industry is helping with funds to replace the fences. It’s great to see how the ag industry works together during tough times.” Gonzalez’ own home was nearly affected by the fire. “I could see the flames from my kitchen window just on the hill near my home, and fortunately, we are protected by some of the orchards. Also, the wind was blowing in a favorable direction, so we were part of a voluntary evacuation area. We felt very fortunate.”

Burned Citrus Orchard in California