More than 100,000 people have been evacuated from the Thomas Fire burning in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. But workers in the area’s agricultural fields stayed on the job, breathing in smoke and ash as they picked strawberry and celery crops.
Farmworker advocacy groups say they noticed, the day after the fire started, thousands of workers in the fields without protective equipment.
"They were telling us to hurry up, to keep working harder because it was a bad environment and we had to pick the produce. The tractor was moving faster than we were moving, and they were just telling us to hurry up and the supervisor was telling us to push more," said one farmworker, who requested anonymity for fear of losing his job.
He said he was told to work more quickly so he wouldn’t work as long in the falling ash and thick smoke.