The Latest: Massive California wildfire half contained

December 19, 2017
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In this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, U.S. Forest Service Hot Shot crew members from Ojai, Calif., head down a fire break to work off E. Camino Cielo in Santa Barbara, Calif., Sunday morning, Dec. 17, 2017. Thousands of firefighters tried Sunday to shield coastal communities from one of the biggest wildfires in California history while a funeral procession rolled past burn-scarred hillsides in honor of one of their colleagues who was killed battling the flames. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Latest on California wildfire (all times local):

6:45 p.m.

Officials say firefighters in Southern California have reached the halfway point in their attempt to corral a massive wildfire.

But state fire Deputy Chief Mark Brown says before the fire is fully contained, the blaze will almost certainly become the biggest in state history.

Brown says favorable conditions allowed firefighters to make excellent progress Monday and reach the 50 percent containment milestone on the blaze burning in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

It has now spread to about 423 square miles, making it the third biggest since accurate records were kept starting in 1932.

The largest, the 2003 Cedar Fire in San Diego County, burned about 427 square miles.

Officials estimate the blaze will be contained by Jan. 7.


5:15 a.m.

Crews on the lines of Southern California’s enormous wildfire hope to take advantage of a two-day window of calmer winds before potentially dangerous gusts return at mid-week.

The blaze that broke out two weeks ago Monday still threatens thousands of homes northwest of Los Angeles.

Fire spokesman Capt. Rick Crawford says cooler temperatures, slightly higher humidity and light winds forecast for Monday and Tuesday will be “critical” for firefighters hoping to make progress against the Thomas Fire. The hot, gusty winds that caused a huge flare-up and forced more evacuations over the weekend are expected to come back Wednesday.

Evacuation orders remain for swaths of Santa Barbara County, including the hillside communities of Montecito and Summerland.

The 422-square-mile (1,093-sq. kilometer) blaze has destroyed more than 700 homes. It’s 45 percent contained.

Update hourly