After Battling Flames For A Month, Firefighters Have Nearly Contained California’s Largest Wildfire On Record

REUTERS/Gene Blevins

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Firefighting crews have nearly completely contained California’s largest wildfire after it scorched more than 280,000 acres for almost one month, damaging hundred of structures and taking two lives.

The U.S. Forest Service and CAL FIRE, a state agency, reported the Thomas fire ripping through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties is 92 percent contained as of Tuesday morning. The fire remains at 281,893 acres, according to officials.

The Thomas fire began on Dec. 4 as one of several major fires in Southern California. Warm and dry Santa Ana winds provided the perfect conditions for fires to spread, and winter rains typical of December didn’t show up.

Heavy winter rains spurred plant growth in 2017, which dried out during California’s hot summer and fall. Without any real effort to reduce fuel loads, dried plants and Santa Ana winds provided the perfect condition for large fires.

Thankfully, cooler temperatures and humidity have reduced fire activity, allowing firefighters to extinguish areas of heat, according to officials. Some rain is predicted for Wednesday, which will give crews a good shot of containing more of the blaze.

The Thomas fire is the largest on record for California going back to 1932, making it the largest since the 2003 Cedar fire that burned more than 273,000 acres and killed 15 people.

California officials, however, noted there were likely bigger fires before 1932, but officials don’t use older data because they are “less reliable,” they told the Los Angeles Times. The 1889 Santiago Canyon fire, for example, burned 300,000 acres.

Wildfires are nothing new for California, but population growth and urban sprawl have put more lives and property in fire-prone areas. Since most fires are human-caused, the risk for large fires has increased somewhat in parts of the state.

While it’s unknown what caused the Thomas fire, the blaze quickly engulfed thousands of acres and destroyed more than 1,000 structures. The fire damaged nearly 300 other structures and resulted in at least two deaths.

However, investigators determined the nearby Skirball fire that engulfed the Los Angeles area’s wealthiest zip code was started by an illegal cooking fire at a homeless camp. Firefighters have made progress against other blazes in Southern California as well.



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