A wildfire that has ripped through parts of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in recent weeks has quickly become California’s largest in recorded history, officials announced Friday.
The Thomas Fire has barreled through 273,400 acres of land, charring forests and buildings along its path — it is now 154 acres larger than the deadly Cedar Fire in San Diego in 2003.
“The Thomas Fire is now the largest wildfire in recorded California history,” Cal Fire spokesman Brandon Vaccaro told reporters Friday night. “The weather has been extremely cooperative, except for some winds we had earlier this week that were not bad.”
It has lessened in intensity over the past few days. Just over 2,800 fire personnel were battling the flames Friday, down from about 4,400 crew on Thursday and below the 8,000 firefighters earlier this month.
The fire, which burned hundreds of homes and prompted mass evacuations, is now 65 percent contained, according to the AP. Thomas fire is just one of several wildfires to engulf parts of California.
Fires plowed through wine country in Northern California earlier this year, consuming more than 100,000 acres and prompting thousands of people to evacuate.
Western wildfires chewed up more than 200,000 acres in Northern California and killed at least 40 people in October. Similar wildfires scorched Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
The spat of wildfires in the north prompted a bipartisan group of lawmakers to call for more controlled burns to prevent future wildfires.
Republican Sen. Michael Crapo of Idaho and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon floated the idea of a compromise measure between Republicans worried about regulations preventing thinning and Democrats wary of loggers.
Congress would direct the Forest Service and Department of the Interior to treat the areas at risk of wildfires. Forest managers would then be able to thin out the pine forests near populated areas, while doing controlled burns in rural areas.
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