Paul Wellman

Tips for Following the Thomas Fire

Which Sources Should You Use to Follow the Latest Wildfire News?

With so many sources and types of information available these days, tracking wildfire news is more of an art than science. Here’s a look at the tools we’ve been using to follow the Thomas Fire.

Official Government Websites: Two clearinghouses of Thomas Fire info, from evacuation maps to school closures to health advisories, came online soon after the blaze began: covers our neighbors to the south, while provides Santa Barbarans all they need to know.

2-1-1: Free and 24/7, this phone service that gives up-to-date fire bulletins is useful to the internet averse and tech savvy alike, who may be left with no other options if the power goes out or cell phones aren’t working.

Water dropping helicopters work the Thomas Fire. (Dec. 10, 2017)
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Water dropping helicopters work the Thomas Fire. (Dec. 10, 2017)

Facebook: A double-edged sword. There’s no quicker way to share news articles or citizen reports, which can sometimes spot and announce danger even before the authorities can, but rumors run rampant and unverified information should be checked before acted upon.

Twitter: There are thousands of tweets marked #ThomasFire, from messages by Ellen DeGeneres, Katy Perry, and Rob Lowe to the latest evacuation notices, official fire updates, fresh images, raw videos, and so forth. You have to cut through a lot of random noise if you categorize by “Latest,” but that is also the fastest way to get up-to-date and on-the-ground reports.

KEYT: Our hometown TV station did a round-the-clock heroic job over the weekend when the fire broke into Santa Barbara County, with steady anchoring; frequent weather, evac, and fire progression updates; and strong field reporting by John Palminteri, Alys Martinez, and others. The broadcasts were live-streamed on their website,, which also features a valuable “map room.” Sure, they make the occasional mistake and sporadically fumble looking through maps and apps on-screen in real time, but so would you.

By Paul Wellman

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