Dec. 14 (UPI) — Firefighters have finally begun to make significant progress on one of the largest and most destructive wildfires in California’s history, but authorities say there’s still a long way to go.
The largest of several blazes burning, the Thomas Fire, has burned about 240,000 acres as of Wednesday, but containment has reached 30 percent contained, officials said.
The fire, the fifth largest in the state’s history, started in Ventura County and has burned its way to Santa Barbara County. The flames have destroyed about 1,000 structures, including more than 700 houses — leaving many wondering if they will have a place to return to.
Battalion chief Ron Mclaughlin told NPR the dry winds keeping the fire alive, being so close to the ocean, is an anomaly. In Montecito, final exams have been rescheduled at University of California, Santa Barbara, and many residents are wearing surgical masks to guard against the smoky air.
The newest fire, the Skirball Fire, has destroyed six homes in the upscale Bel-Air neighborhood of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Fire Department said it started at a homeless encampment near the 405 Freeway.
Four other major fires from the Los Angeles area to San Diego have also been frustrating firefighters.
Officials say the fire danger remains dangerous, and the National Weather Service has projected winds to reach 50 mph in coming days. “Red flag warnings” will remain through Friday morning over the Los Angeles and Ventura County mountains and the Ventura County and Santa Clarita Valleys.