Thomas Fire Update – December 21, 2017

Burning since December 4, 2017, the Thomas Fire is on its way to becoming the largest wildland fire in modern California history.  After impacting many of our neighboring communities with devastating force, many parts of Santa Barbara County, including the Goleta Valley have experienced significant smoke and ash fallout.  While the fire is still active in the backcountry wilderness areas and full containment is not expected until January 2018, all evacuation orders were lifted in the greater Santa Barbara area on December 21 and the community is beginning the clean-up and recovery chapter of this historic event.

Throughout the fire emergency, Goleta Water District actively coordinated with a variety of Emergency Management Agencies to ensure adequate water supplies were available to support fire services.  The District was on high alert during the fire and participated in the joint incident command operations throughout the fire event.  The District collaborated with South Coast water providers including the Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board (COMB), County of Santa Barbara, City of Santa Barbara, Montecito Water District and Carpinteria Valley Water District to maximize all water resources and water availability, and to ensure the reliability of the regional water system.

These preparations included operating the District's Corona Del Mar Water Treatment Plant and storage reservoirs on emergency generators, and working with our regional partners in order to respond to changes in the weather or fire activity.  The District also provided water through its hydrants to support the Phos-Chek mixing stations off Highway 154.  The District identified the location of hydrants and provided high velocity filling stations for fire service personnel when necessary.

The District’s Board of Directors and Staff thank firefighters and first responders for their outstanding efforts to keep the community safe! 


Beyond air quality impacts, the accumulated fire-related debris presents a serious safety and sanitary hazard for everyone in the community.  Click here for information about Ash Clean-up Best Practices.  

Long-term Impacts

The backcountry devastation from the Thomas Fire only adds to the District’s concerns about the Lake Cachuma Watershed.  The 2017 Whittier Fire and the 2016 Rey Fire burned large areas that run off into Lake Cachuma.  Airborne ash and sediment from the Thomas Fire into the Jameson and Gibralter Reservoirs could also impact Lake Cachuma, as winter rains are expected to carry charred debris from the fires into the lake.  This burned vegetation, ash, and eroded sediment are expected to substantially degrade the quality of the raw water that flows into the Corona Del Mar Water Treatment Plant for years to come.  As the water quality of Lake Cachuma evolves, the District is doing everything it can to address this emerging issue.

As the Holiday Season is upon us, the District also extends its appreciation to our customers in the Goleta Valley for your efforts to conserve water, power and support emergency responders during the Thomas Fire.