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SoCal fire still raging

On Wednesday, Dec. 13, Southern California’s largest fire — the so-named Thomas fire in Ventura County — was still raging and had consumed more than 235,000 acres. There was reason for optimism as winds had died down the previous day and firefighters were starting to gain control, but the fire still had Santa Barbara in its sights with a fierce battle continuing on its northern flank.

Ken Melban of the California Avocado Commission said about 4,000 acres of avocado groves were in the areas affected by the fires but not all acreage was scorched, and not all fruit was lost even in damaged groves. He said it would be at least two weeks before an accurate assessment of loss could be made. The 4,000 acres represent about 8 percent of California’s avocado acreage. Prior to the fire, the California avocado crop has been estimated at close to 400 million pounds, which would be twice as large as last year.

There are also many lemon groves in the area but they apparently have a natural resistance to fire. That news has been reported all week and Melban witnessed it first hand as he surveyed the area. Facilities and fields in the agriculturally-rich Oxnard area of Ventura County apparently escaped any direct damage as the fire stayed north and east of that region. Heavy smoke did cause many companies to close their harvesting operations for the better part of a week, though they were back in the fields this week.

The other fires in Southern California were all but out as of this writing, but they did inflict damage. At least one company, Rainforest Flora Inc., headquartered in Torrance, CA, reported that it lost almost of its inventory at its North San Diego County facility. President Paul Isley III said more than one million plants were lost, some taking as long as 25 years to produce. The firm has set up a GoFundMe account to help some of its employees who also lost everything in San Diego’s Lilac fire.

The Fresh Produce & Floral Council Board of Directors announced that it had donated $10,000 to the Red Cross Southern California fire relief effort, and encouraged others to follow suit.