California fire now second-largest in state history
LOS ANGELES: A wildfire that's burned hundreds of homes in coastal mountains northwest of Los Angeles is now the second-largest blaze in California history.
State fire officials said the 425-acre Thomas fire burning in Ventura and Santa Barbaracounties is slightly larger than the 2012 Rush fire in Lassen County. The fire, which is only 55 percent contained on Monday night, is only about 1,200 acres smaller than the state's largest fire. That blaze, the 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego, killed 15 people.
A firefighter and a fleeing civilian have died in the Thomas fire that broke out on December 4. It continues to threaten 18,000 homes and other buildings. Firefighters say decreasing winds and higher humidity are helping them but brush in the area remains tinder-dry. Crews taking advantage of calm winds will perform a controlled burn to remove swaths of dry brush as they build containment lines around Southern California's enormous wildfire.
Fire spokesman Captain Rick Crawford said on Wednesday that officials will remove potential fuels on the fire's northern edge so that when winds whip up again today "there'll be nothing left to burn." He says residents near the city of Ojai could see new smoke from the controlled burn. The blaze northwest of Los Angeles is the third largest in state history. It's 50 per cent contained. Some evacuations were lifted Monday and Crawford says more residents are being allowed to return on Wednesday.
However, he cautions that homes are still threatened in parts of Santa Barbara County, where firefighters plan an aggressive air attack on stubborn flames.