The Thomas fire finally is in the process of being tamed, but the beast leaves behind a trail of incredible destruction.

On-again, off-again Santa Ana winds seemed to have it in for firefighters and homeowners. Earlier in the week, fire crews had a tentative handle on containing the monster. Then the wind kicked up, and the battle resumed. This is how wars tend to play out.

The Thomas fire has been flirting with becoming California’s worst wildfire in terms of acres burned, topping the 273,246 acres scorched by the Cedar Fire in San Diego County 14 years ago.

So, on this Christmas holiday weekend we feel extra incentive to present gifts to the thousands of men and women who have been fighting the Thomas monster since its start in Ventura County. The gift contains roses, lots of them.

Firefighting crews have come from all over the West, numbering nearly 9,000. Many of them have been on the front lines for weeks, often fighting the fire’s relentless, blistering advance until they were too weary to stand.

To those of us living in potential fire zones, that shows heroism far above and beyond, and we offer roses, thumbs up and every other manner of thanks for the work they do.

We also offer roses to those who have come to the aid of their burned-out neighbors. In many cases, the assistance is offered to complete strangers.

There is a commonness of purpose when neighbors fall victim to major disasters. We saw it in Houston when large sections of the city were flooded by rain from Hurricane Harvey. We saw it when Hurricane Irma raked across Florida, inflicting pain and suffering. We saw it again when Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.

People are at their best when facing the worst situations. Bravo, and roses to everyone.

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The Thomas fire also has stretched thin the ability of local charities to get clothes and food to families during the holiday season.

So, roses to everyone who can contribute to the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, which is the central distributor to more than 300 charitable agencies countywide.

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Roses and a vigorous thumbs up to the Santa Maria Humane Society for thinking of their “guests” this holiday season.

The Thomas fire has left many pets homeless, and a lot of them showed up at the Santa Maria Human Society facility, whose staff hopes to "clear the shelter" before Christmas by placing each of the shelter's cats and dogs into permanent homes.

The shelter was full at mid-week, but you can become a dog or cat’s hero by visiting the shelter up until 3 p.m. Sunday, and take home a new friend without charge. The Humane Society has waived the usual adoption fees.

What do you say to a trip to 1687 W. Stowell Road? Pick a pet — or two — and earn a rose

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As a matter of fact, roses to every person who has helped make this very difficult holiday season on the Central Coast more enjoyable for folks affected by the Thomas fire, many of whom lost everything but their lives in the blaze. And a special bouquet to local organizations that have helped those helpers in their quest to improve the season for those who have suffered near-catastrophic losses.

We are nearing the end of what has been a very trying year for so many Americans — and so many of our neighbors here on the Central Coast — but it is truly gratifying to know we always have each other’s backs.

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