Firefighter Dies Near Fillmore, Thomas Fire Still Very Active

  • Dec 15, 2017

The tragic report came late on the morning of December 14 that a Cal Fire firefighter had died while fighting the Thomas Fire near Fillmore. The California Avocado Commission (CAC) sends our deepest sympathies to the family of the firefighter. More than 8,000 firefighters are battling the fire, which has spread throughout northern Ventura County and further north into Santa Barbara County. As of December 14, 2017 (3:45 pm), the Thomas Fire has burned 242,500 acres and is 30 percent contained.

Based on conversations with industry members, and field visits, CAC has determined that as of this writing at least a few hundred avocado acres have been burned. The final numbers will likely be considerably more. By utilizing existing grove location GIS imagery CAC has identified approximately 4,500 avocado acres currently within the Thomas Fire perimeter (click here to view map). It’s important to realize that not all the acres within the fire perimeter have burned. In addition, of those impacted there are varying degrees of damage. Some trees are completely burned, while others could potentially be rehabilitated. It will take weeks to fully assess the damage.

CAC staff are available to help growers who may have questions. If you’d like a call or visit from a CAC staff member, please call Ken Melban at 559.859.6811.

In addition, CAC and the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) are coordinating with the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) the availability of field appointments for growers who have been impacted by the Thomas Fire. Personnel from both FSA and NRCS will be available to assist growers December 19 through December 21 with the necessary paperwork to apply for federal assistance (more information below).

To schedule an appointment for either of the following days, please call (805) 645-1434.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Santa Paula Agriculture Museum
926 Railroad Ave, Santa Paula
8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Wednesday, December 20, 2017
University of California Cooperative Extension
669 County Square Drive Suite #100, Ventura
8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Thursday, December 21, 2017
University of California Cooperative Extension
669 County Square Drive Suite #100, Ventura
8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Federal relief personnel will be available to assist growers with the paperwork, and growers are asked to provide the following information:

  • Business entity information (e.g. individual, limited liability corporation, etc.)
  • Social Security Number and/or Employer Identification Number
  • Location/size of the farm
  • Extent of damage

Remember, it’s important that California avocado industry members who have been impacted by the recent wildfires and/or Santa Ana winds contact their crop insurance agent within 72 hours of the event to determine possible applicable coverage. Both fire and wind events may be included in certain crop insurance coverage, but agents must be notified within 72 hours.

Here is a list of potential FSA programs that may provide disaster assistance to those avocado growers affected by the wildfires:

  • The Tree Assistance Program provides financial assistance to qualifying orchardists to help them replant or rehabilitate trees damaged by natural disasters (separate from crop insurance).
  • The Emergency Conservation Program offers funding and technical assistance to growers to help them rehabilitate land damaged by natural disasters. This program may provide cost share assistance for debris removal, land leveling and shaping, irrigation replacement, and cattle fencing.
  • Emergency loans are available to producers located in counties that receive a primary or contiguous disaster designation.

Also, if you are an impacted grower you are asked to contact both FSA and your county agricultural commissioner’s office as follows:

USDA-Farm Service Agency

Santa Barbara/Ventura County
Daisy Banda
Key Program Technician
805-928-9269 Ex.2

Riverside/San Diego Counties
Desiree Garza
County Executive Director
760-347-3675 ext. 107

Ventura County

Korinne Bell, Chief Deputy Agricultural Commissioner,
Henry Gonzalez, Agricultural Commissioner,
(805) 388-4343, Ext. 2

Santa Barbara County

Debbie Trupe, Deputy Agricultural Commissioner,
Stephanie Stark, Deputy Agricultural Commissioner,
(805) 681-5600

San Diego County

Vince Acosta, Information Technology Principal,
(858) 967-8623

Riverside County

Ron Bray, Assistant Agricultural Commission, RBray@RIVCO.ORG
(951) 955-3000


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