California's wildfire now ranks as state's third largest
SANTA BARBARA (AP):
The massive wildfire that California has been battling since early December has now ballooned into the third-largest in the state's history, burning a record amount of acreage, officials said yesterday.
Steve Concialdi of the Orange County Fire Authority said the Thomas Fire, which started December 4 in Santa Paula, has now burned 259,000 acres (nearly 105,000 hectares). That exceeds the devastating Rim Fire in 2013 by 2,000 acres.
The region has had "red flag" or hot, dry and windy conditions for an unprecedented 13 consecutive days.
Everything about the fire was massive, from a footprint larger than that of many cities to the sheer scale of destruction that cremated entire neighbourhoods or the legions attacking it: about 8,300 firefighters from nearly a dozen states, aided by 78 bulldozers and 29 helicopters that were dropping thousands of litre of water on fires and hot spots.
Firefighting costs were approaching US$89 million.
The Thomas Fire surging through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties has already burned more than 1,000 buildings, including well over 750 homes. Another 18,000 buildings are still in jeopardy, including mansions in the wealthy enclave of Montecito.
Another focus of firefighting was on the eastern flank in canyons where a state firefighter was killed last Thursday near the agricultural town of Fillmore.
Officials have released no details on the death of 32-year-old Cory Iverson, but it was a stunning blow to those fighting the flames.