Officials to lift most California wildfire evacuations

VENTURA, California. – The worst appears to be over for a huge forest fire that plagued a broad swath of the Southern California coast for 2 ½ weeks.

But a small handful of the evacuation orders for the fire was blown off by Thursday. At the height of the fire drove about 100,000 people from their homes. Now only a remote desert valley is under an evacuation order.

The so-called Thomas Brand, could very well still become the largest forest fire in the history of California, but it would do as a gentle giant, not a ferocious beast. The blaze was 65 percent contained and has burned about 425 square miles (1,100 square kilometers), making it the second largest in California history.

Warning for high risk of fire were cancelled for Santa Barbara County, although it remained in effect elsewhere in Southern California due to Santa Ana winds, low humidity and extremely dry vegetation.

The only visible flame was on the northern side of the fire where a controlled burn set by firefighters to clear combustible material were carried out in the wilderness, said fire information officer Brandon Vaccaro.

Approximately 18,000 houses and other buildings were still listed as threatened. Even if there is no sign of fire or smoke, the fire can rekindle.

The Thomas Fire, which began Dec. 4, is responsible for two deaths and has destroyed at least 750 homes.

Days of fierce, often capricious gusts of wind in combination with extremely dry weather pushed the blaze with incredible speed, as it moved through Ventura County in the agricultural Santa Clara Valley, in the city of Ventura, and then moved northwestward, threatening the communities along the coast of Santa Barbara County.

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