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Image: Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire Department

Image: Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire Department


The Inertia

On Friday night, the Thomas Fire became the biggest wildfire in California since the state began keeping records in 1932. It’s been just over two weeks since the blaze began in Ventura, and it has now burned 273,400 acres across Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Thousands of people have been evacuated and hundreds of structures have been destroyed. Two people have died as a result: a 70-year-old woman who was fleeing and got into a car crash, and a firefighter who was working on the front lines.

Prior to the Thomas Fire, the largest blaze on record was the Cedar Fire in San Diego County back in 2003. At 273,246 acres, the Cedar fire killed 15 people and burned nearly 3,000 structures before officials were able to get a handle on it.

Now, however, things are finally beginning to look up for firefighters and residents dealing with the Thomas Fire. Easing winds and lower temperatures have allowed workers to contain over 65 percent of the fire, and nearly all of the mandatory evacuations in Santa Barbara County and Ventura County have been lifted.

We’ve definitely turned a corner,” said Brandon Vaccaro, an Information Officer, to NBC. “The weather has been really great, for the most part.”

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Still, though, the damage is massive. The Thomas Fire has burned 775 homes and more than 200 other buildings. As of December 23rd, the cost of fighting the fire is at $177 million. Officials are tentatively hoping for a full containment by December 8th.


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