California wildfire becomes largest on record in the state

Image Mike Eliason Santa Barbara County Fire Department

The Thomas Fire in Southern California spread to a record-level size Friday, breaking the state record for largest wildfire as it continues to burn across the region with 65-percent containment. It is 154 acres larger than the 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego that killed 15 people. A firefighter and a woman fleeing the blaze died.

After a 32-year-old firefighter from Cal Fire was killed during the the Snohomish County crew's deployment, Chad Berg of Snohomish Fire District 7 said his crew members had to contact their families to assure them that they were ok.

On Thursday, authorities canceled the last evacuation notices still in effect for Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

Cal Fire says the flames have burned through 1,063 buildings and is just 65 percent contained after starting on December 4th.

Now, however, things are finally beginning to look up for firefighters and residents dealing with the Thomas Fire. Some fires before that date undoubtedly were larger but records are unreliable, according to state fire officials.

"The main fire itself will not have any growth", said Brandon Vaccaro, Capt. Brandon Vaccaro of the California City Fire Department. The Thomas fire has destroyed more than 1,000 structures and has been associated with one death. But the ongoing firefighting efforts will still be assisted by Cal Fire, officials said.

By Friday, however, humidity was higher, temperatures were cooler and the fire threat to homes in many areas eased.

Depending on wind and weather conditions, firefighters plan to start a controlled burn near the highway with hopes that winds from the north will push the flames away from the highway and south toward the main body of the fire.

The so-called Thomas Fire could very well still grow to become the biggest wildfire in California history, but as a gentle giant, not a raging beast.

A dolphin statue is seen at a property destroyed by the Thomas Fire in Carpintera California as residents were taking stock of the catastrophic damage.

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