Nearly two dozen Bay Area firefighters working to help battle Thomas Fire

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Crews from several Bay Area cities are making their way to Southern California to help battle a massive wildfire that has left one person dead and scorched over 40,000 acres. (KGO-TV)

Bay Area first responders are heading to Southern California to help firefighters battle a massive, fast-moving wildfire that broke out late Monday.

So far, one person has been killed in the Thomas Fire.

Officials said the fire grew wildly to more than 48 square miles in the hours that followed, consuming vegetation that hasn't burned in decades, Ventura County Fire Sgt. Eric Buschow said.

Early Tuesday morning, the North Bay OES Strike Team received word they needed to assist with the raging wildfires that exploded in Ventura County. Strike Team Leader Jeff Rowan said the call did not come as a surprise."They had predicted Santa Ana winds, pretty severe, maybe the worst of the season that we were told. I kind of had an idea that we would get called out down south and sure enough, right about 4:30 a.m. we got the call," he said.

RELATED: Southern California wildfire explodes to 45,000 acres


Immediately, 22 firefighters from Tiburon, San Rafael, Ross Valley, Kentfield and Marin County Fire Departments packed their bags. The convoy of five trucks assembled on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge Toll plaza and the firefighters introduced themselves one-by-one, and Rowan re-enforced the priorities of communication and safety.

The crews don't know how long they will be away from home, but they do know they'll face similar conditions to the recent wine country wildfires. "The Santa Ana winds in Southern California are very similar to what happened up here," Rowan said.

As soon as they check into base camp Tuesday afternoon, Rowan said it's go time. "You get an assignment, you go to work, just as if you're doing it here," he said. The North Bay Strike Team expects to work 24-hour shifts on the front line. Rowan said everyone is rested and ready for the long days ahead.

At least 150 structures have burned so far, fire officials said. There was no immediate word whether the structures were homes or businesses. More than 27,000 people have been evacuated and one firefighter was injured. There was no word on the extent of the injuries.

The winds were pushing it toward Santa Paula, a city of some 30,000 people about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Many of the evacuated homes were in that city.
However, evacuation orders were expanded to houses in Ventura, which is 12 miles southwest and has 106,000 residents.

Click here for more stories, photos and videos on the Thomas Fire.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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