The most destructive wildfire raging in southern California has expanded significantly, scorching an area larger than New York City. The Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties has consumed 230,000 acres (930 sq km) in the past week.
California has spent the past seven days battling wildfires. Six large blazes, and other smaller ones, erupted on Monday night in southern California.The Thomas Fire – named according to where it started, near the Thomas Aquinas College – is by far the largest of the fires.
Spread by strong winds, it has become the fifth largest wildfire in recorded state history after it grew by more than 50,000 acres in a day.Residents in coastal beach communities have been ordered to leave.
On Sunday, firefighters reported that 15% of the blaze had been contained but were forced to downgrade that to 10% as it continued to spread.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said, “This is a menacing fire, certainly, but we have a lot of people working very diligently to bring it under control.”Thousands of firefighters are working round the clock to tackle the blaze, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.
The containment operation is not only being hampered by dry winds. It is proving challenging for firefighters because of the location and mountainous terrain.The other fires hitting California are largely controlled, but 200,000 people have evacuated their homes and some 800 buildings have been destroyed since 4 December.
Several firefighters have been injured, but only one person has died – a 70-year-old woman who was found dead in her car on an evacuation route.
There are also fears the blaze will seriously hit California’s multi-million dollar agricultural industry.