LOS ANGELES – the Fire department took advantage of calm winds in Southern California to achieve 50 percent containment of a huge wildfire, officials said.
“We have a very productive day,” said Assistant director Mark Brown of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protections. “The weather conditions were just too good for us.”
Monday was the first of a two-day window of calm winds in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties where the so-called Thomas Fire has burned for two weeks.
The fire northwest of Los Angeles has now spread over 423 square miles (1,095 square kilometers), making it the third largest since accurate records had been kept since 1932. The largest, the 2003 Cedar Fire in San Diego County, burned about 427 square miles.
Officials estimate the Thomas Fire will become the largest in history, for full containment, which is expected by Jan. 7.
It was still threatening communities northwest of Los Angeles, where thousands remain under evacuation orders.
The warm, gusty wind that caused a huge flare-up and forced more residents to flee into the weekend are expected to come back on Wednesday.
The fire churning through brush in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties has burned more than 1,000 structures, including at least 750 homes. 18,000 more homes are still threatened.
Michael and Sonia Behrman told KABC-TV they fled their hillside home with heavy smoke blew in and returned to find it in the ashes.
“It’s just hard to put into words,” Michael Behrman said. “It is where we live. It’s just smoke and ruin now.”
The body of a firefighter killed while battling the blaze was transported Sunday in a procession that rolled through the five provinces before ending up at a funeral home in San Diego. Mourners stood on the highway overpasses to pay respects to firefighter Cory Iverson, 32, died Dec. 14 from burns and smoke inhalation. He is survived by his pregnant wife and a 2-year-old daughter.
The blaze is also the fault of the Dec. 6 the death of a 70-year-old woman who died in a car accident on an evacuation route.
Everything about the brand is huge, from the massive scale of the destruction that destroyed entire neighborhoods in the legions of the people to attack. More than 8,000 firefighters from nearly a dozen states fought the third largest wildfire in history.
The cause remains under investigation. So far, firefighting costs more than $117 million.
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