Latest: California fire now second-largest in state history

December 20, 2017

In this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Santa Barbara County Firefighters haul dozens of pounds of hose and equipment down steep terrain below E. Camino Cielo to root out and extinguish smoldering hot spots in Santa Barbara, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. Officials estimate that the Thomas Fire will grow to become the biggest in California history before full containment, expected by Jan. 7, 2018. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

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

7 p.m.

A wildfire that’s burned hundreds of homes in coastal mountains northwest of Los Angeles is now the second-largest blaze in California history.

State fire officials say the 425-square-mile Thomas fire burning in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties is slightly larger than the 2012 Rush fire in Lassen County.

The fire, which is only 55 percent contained Tuesday night, is about 1,200 acres smaller than the state’s largest fire ever measured. That blaze, the 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego, killed 15 people.

A firefighter and a fleeing civilian have died in the Thomas fire that broke out on Dec. 4. It continues to threaten 18,000 homes and other buildings.

Firefighters say decreasing winds and higher humidity are helping them but brush in the area remains tinder-dry.


This story has been corrected to reflect the size of the fire is 425 square miles, instead of acres as originally reported.


5:30 a.m.

Crews taking advantage of calm winds will perform a controlled burn to remove swaths of dry brush as they build containment lines around Southern California’s enormous wildfire.

Calmer winds helped firefighters battling the enourmous blaze in Santa Barbara County, California. But in other areas, wind gusts reaching 70 mph added to the extreme fire danger. (Dec. 18)

Fire spokesman Capt. Rick Crawford said Tuesday that officials will remove potential fuels on the fire’s northern edge so that when winds whip up again Wednesday “there’ll be nothing left to burn.”

He says residents near the city of Ojai could see new smoke from the controlled burn.

The blaze northwest of Los Angeles is the third largest in state history. It’s 50 percent contained. Some evacuations were lifted Monday and Crawford says more residents are being allowed to return Tuesday.

However he cautions that homes are still threatened in parts of Santa Barbara County, where firefighters plan an aggressive air attack on stubborn flames.

Update hourly