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Southern California | Wildfires

Relief at last: Thomas Fire nearly fully contained

News Agency

Friday, December 29, 2017, 9:37 - The largest wildfire in California history is finally on the verge of becoming history, officials confirmed Friday.

The Thomas Fire that began northwest of Los Angeles on Dec. 4 has burned 281,893 acres, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said Friday, bigger than the size of New York City. The latest figure up by about 8,000 acres since Christmas Eve.

The fire was 92 percent contained as of Friday and officials did not expect it grow any longer.

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"No forward progress of the fire is expected at this point," said the U.S. Forest Service in a statement earlier this week. "Visitors are encouraged to make plans to enjoy Santa Barbara, Ventura, and surrounding areas during the upcoming holiday weekend. Businesses are open and eager to serve the public."

The cause was still not known. The fire spread from its start in Ventura County due to strong Santa Ana winds from the California desert.

The fire has destroyed 1,063 structures and scorched coastal mountains, foothills and canyons across Ventura and Santa Barbara counties northwest of Los Angeles, officials said.

Cal Fire said there were flare-ups of hot spots within areas already burned on Saturday, but no danger reported to homes or people were seen.

Evacuation orders that had been in place in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties were canceled on the Thursday before Christmas.

One fatality directly related to the fire has been reported, a firefighter who succumbed to burns and smoke inhalation in the line of duty on Dec. 14 in Ventura County.

The Thomas Fire has burned about 150 more acres than the 2003 Cedar Fire in San Diego County that killed 15 people.

Click here to donate to the Thomas Fire via the United Way.

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Weather Conditions

Weather conditions are finally turning more in favor of those fighting the blaze, as weak high pressure sets up over the region and cooler air flows out from the interior.

High temperatures will be near or slightly below average for most of the region, and while offshore winds will persist, they should be much lighter than the harsh Santa Ana winds that have fueled this disaster. With the slackening winds, some higher humidity levels are forecast to return to the coast early next week, as well. That said, we still don't expect any rain for the region in the next week or so.

As we close out 2017, this general pattern is expected to persist, with winds remaining below advisory criteria and modestly higher humidity - both of which are good news when it comes to getting the Thomas Fire fully contained.

Fire weather alerts can be monitored, here.



Firefighters keep watch on the Thomas wildfire in the hills and canyons outside Montecito, California, U.S., December 16, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins

Firefighters keep watch on the Thomas wildfire in the hills and canyons outside Montecito, California, U.S., December 16, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins/File Photo

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Editor's Note: Forecast information provided by the National Weather Service, not part of Reuters report

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