California wildfire now largest in state history

VENTURA, Calif. (AP) — The huge wildfire that burned hundreds of homes in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties is now the largest in California’s recorded history.

State fire officials said Friday that the Thomas fire has scorched 273,400 acres, or about 427 square miles of coastal foothills and national forest.

That was 154 acres larger than the 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego that killed 15 people.

Thousands of firefighters and fleets of aircraft have been battling the blaze since Dec. 4. A firefighter and a woman fleeing the blaze died.

Days of unrelenting hot, gusty winds drive it through Ventura neighborhoods, incinerating entire blocks, and threatened the wealthy enclave of Montecito.

By Friday, however, humidity was higher, temperatures were cooler and the fire threat to homes in many areas eased. The fire continued to move slowly through forest but the blaze is 65 percent contained.