Local Firefighters Return from California wildfires in time for Christmas

Thomas fire within 500 acres of becoming California's largest wildfire on record

A sprawling Southern California wildfire that has been burning through rugged, drought-parched coastal terrain since December 4 has become the largest on record in the state, state fire officials said on Friday.

Only one firefighter has been lost to the massive fire, with San Diego firefighter Cory Iverson passing in early December.

The fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties had scorched 273,400 acres, or about 427 square miles of coastal foothills and national forest, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. 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.

Despite its size, the Thomas fire has been less destructive than either the wine country fires or the Cedar fire, which destroyed 2,820 structures and killed 15 people. But the ongoing firefighting efforts will still be assisted by Cal Fire, officials said. A train of personnel moves along setting the fire making sure no fire jumps the control line or gets out of hand, Vaccaro said. The Thomas fire had already burned an area larger than Manhattan but has spread to an area larger than "New York City, Washington, DC, and San Francisco combined" according to CNN. The Thomas Fire has burned 775 homes and more than 200 other buildings.

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All but a tiny handful of evacuation orders for the fire were called off by Thursday.

Depending on wind and weather conditions, firefighters plan to start a controlled burn near the highway with hopes that winds from the north will push the flames away from the highway and south toward the main body of the fire.

Cal-Fire Public Information Officer Daniel Berlant told Newsweek that the Thomas Fire is "not actively growing", but there are still fire-fighting operations along the outer edges of the wildfire where it consumed additional acreage on Friday.

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