After ripping through cities, towns and wilderness northwest of Los Angeles, California, the Thomas wildfire earned the distinction of becoming the largest blaze ever officially recorded in California on Friday, authorities said.
In just the past two and a half weeks, the Thomas fire has killed two people, destroyed more than 700 homes in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and has laid wasted to 273,400 acres, or about 427 square miles of coastal foothills and national forest, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The Thomas fire is 154 acres larger than California’s previous fire record holder — the 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego County that killed 15 people, according to a report published Saturday in the New York Post.
Since it began, days of unrelentingly dry, gusty winds combined with extremely low humidity have swiftly pushed the blaze into blackening more ground in weeks than other fires had consumed in a month or more, according to the report.
“Those (other) fires burned for weeks and weeks and this fire is only a few weeks old,” said Santa Barbara County fire Capt. David Zaniboni. “It’s incredible.”
By Thursday, the last mandatory evacuation orders were called off after a lull in the weather allowed crews to burn and bulldoze protective firebreaks in the foothills above threatened communities, including the celebrity enclave of Montecito.
The fire was 65 percent contained on Friday, thanks to colder, moister weather, but brush and timber in the area remain tinder dry, so fire crews are setting backfires to burn it out, which could add to the fire’s size.
“The main fire itself will not have any growth,” Capt. Brandon Vaccaro of the California City Fire Department told the Los Angeles Times. “Any growth that we see or is reflected in the acreage will be based on the control burns.”
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