Thomas Fire containment jumps from 65 to 78 percent in single day

Dec 26, 2017, 02:18
Thomas Fire containment jumps from 65 to 78 percent in single day

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.

The fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties had scorched 273,400 acres, or about 427 square miles of coastal foothills and national forest, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The inferno has claimed just over 1,000 structures since it started December 4, and San Diego fire engineer Cory Iverson died fighting the fire last week. At 273,246 acres, the Cedar fire killed 15 people and burned almost 3,000 structures before officials were able to get a handle on it.

Deadline adds that the Thomas fire threatened celebrity havens Montecito and Santa Barbara, with almost 100,000 evacuated and a slew of famous names showing gratitude to firefighters battling the blaze and trying to save the area. Two people have died as a result: a 70-year-old woman who was fleeing and got into a auto crash, and a firefighter who was working on the front lines. Iverson, who was stationed out of San Diego, has local ties to the Mother Lode, as back in 2015 he was based at the Columbia Air Attack and drove a Heli-tender truck.

The Thomas fire took only 2 ½ weeks to burn its way into history books as unrelenting winds and parched weather turned everything in its path to tinder - including more than 700 homes. "The weather has been really great, for the most part".

On Wednesday, as the fire continued to march north and west, Santa Barbara County fire Capt. David Zaniboni was awed by the speed of its growth.

By Friday, however, humidity was higher, temperatures were cooler and the fire threat to homes in many areas eased. As of December 23rd, the cost of fighting the fire is at $177 million.

The improving conditions allowed officials to lift many evacuation orders Thursday.