The first phase of the project established a Temporary Refuge Area (TRA) as defined by Firescope – an identified area that firefighters can take refuge for temporary shelter and short-term relief in the event that emergency egress to an established Safety Zone is compromised. The second phase created a shaded fuel break to the west of the community. The Ojai Valley Fire Safe Council continued the shaded fuel break to the south southwest of the community with funds they received from the Western States Wildland Urban Interface. The shaded Fuel breaks were designed to lessen the fires intensity around the community.
On December 7th 2017, the Thomas Fire moved into and through the area with rapid rates of spread/spotting, the presence of fire whirls and a strong convection column. Due to the size and complexity of the incident – resources assigned in Matilija Canyon were from out of state and unfamiliar with the area. Firefighters, equipment, and local residents used the TRA as the fire burned on all sides of the community. The TRA enabled Firefighters to protect the community by directly engaging, extinguish hot spots and successfully defend all of the homes within the home owners association and most of the homes within Matilija Canyon. The shaded fuel breaks reduced the fires intensity, enabling homeowners and fire resources to extinguish the fire as it approached, threating the community. Firefighters and the residents that stayed to defend their homes were able to comfortably take refuge while the Fire surrounded them and cut off access/ egress temporarily. The Fire fighters were able to successfully defend the area around the TRA. After the fire burned through the area- firefighters were able to extinguish hotspots and the areas around homes.* if the TRA did not exist it could have been several hours before firefighting resources would have been able to gain access to the homes in the canyon. The only access/egress was cut off due to downed powerlines/poles as well as rocks and debris.