California wildfire rages as 3rd largest recorded in state

 

LOS ANGELES, Dec 16 (Reuters) - A raging California wildfire on Saturday became the state's third largest blaze on record, with more devastation possible from a resurgence of the harsh winds that have fueled the deadly fire's growth.

The so-called Thomas Fire has destroyed more than 1,000 structures, including about 750 homes, in coastal communities in Southern California since erupting on Dec. 4, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a statement.

See more photos from the ongoing devestation:

16 PHOTOS
Faces of those impacted and battling the Ventura County, California wildfire
See Gallery
Faces of those impacted and battling the Ventura County, California wildfire
SHADOW HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 05:Judy Hofmann-Sanders hugs a firefighter on McBroom Street in Shadow Hills, where the Creek fire destroyed several homes. (Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 05: Ventura County Firefighter Aaron Cohen catches his breath after fighting to save multi-million dollar homes along Cobblestone Drive near Foothill Road and North Victoria Avenue Tuesday after a fast-moving, wind-fueled wildfire swept into Ventura destroying many homes early Tuesday, burning over 45,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate. 'We chased the fire from Santa Paula all the way into Ventura through the night,' Cohen said. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SYLMAR, CA - DECEMBER 5:A firefighter gets into position to battle the Creek Fire as a house is engulfed in flames near the intersection of Johanna Avenue and McBroom Street in Shadow Hills on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. The fire started at about 3:42 a.m. in the area of Gold Creek and Little Tujunga roads and has burned more than 11,000 acres. (Photo by Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SHADOW HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 05:Judy Hofmann-Sanders talks on the phone as her home is consumed by the Creek fire along McBroom Street in Shadow Hills. (Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 05: Chino Valley Fire Engineer Chris Calvert works the engine as Firefighters fight to save multi-million dollar homes along Cobblestone Drive near Foothill Road and North Victoria Avenue Tuesday midday after a fast-moving, wind-fueled wildfire swept into Ventura destroying many homes early Tuesday, burning over 45,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 05: Amanda Leon and husband Johnny Leon watch as Firefighters fight to save multi-million dollar homes along Cobblestone Drive near Foothill Road and North Victoria Avenue Tuesday midday after a fast-moving, wind-fueled wildfire swept into Ventura destroying many homes early Tuesday, burning over 45,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Local residents react as numerous homes burn on a hillside during a wind driven wildfire in Ventura, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Local residents watch a home burn on a hillside during a wind-driven wildfire in Ventura, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A Ventura police officer squints his eyes in the smoke after using his fire extinguisher to put out a spot fire as strong winds carry a wildfire into Ventura, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Ventura policemen leave a neighborhood after checking a home as strong winds carry a wildfire into Ventura, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Firefighters battle flames from a Santa Ana wind-driven brush fire called the Thomas Fire in Santa Paula, California, December 4, 2017. Photo taken December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 05: Tammy Hanna breaks into tears as she is hugged by husband Antoine as they are relieved their home was saved by Firefighters along Cobblestone Drive near Foothill Road and North Victoria Avenue Tuesday after a fast-moving, wind-fueled wildfire swept into Ventura destroying many homes early Tuesday, burning over 45,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate. 'We chased the fire from Santa Paula all the way into Ventura through the night,' Cohen said. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 05: Wearing his Christmas garb Justin Ekback watches as Firefighters fight to save multi-million dollar homes along Cobblestone Drive near Foothill Road and North Victoria Avenue Tuesday midday after a fast-moving, wind-fueled wildfire swept into Ventura destroying many homes early Tuesday, burning over 45,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SHADOW HILLS, CA DECEMBER 05, 2017 -- Judy Hofmann-Sanders can only watch as her home is consumed by the Creek fire along McBroom Street in Shadow Hills. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Local residents pass by a burning house during the Thomas wildfire in Ventura, California, on December 5, 2017. Firefighters battled a wind-whipped brush fire in southern California that has left at least one person dead, destroyed more than 150 homes and businesses and forced tens of thousands to flee. / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Local residents Aaron Cohen hugs Tammy Hanna during the Thomas wildfire in Ventura, California on December 5, 2017. Firefighters battled a wind-whipped brush fire in southern California that has left at least one person dead, destroyed more than 150 homes and businesses and forced tens of thousands to flee. / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
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It has cost $97 million to fight the 259,000-acre (104,813-hectare) blaze, with thousands of firefighters contending with it around the clock and helicopters and airplanes being used to drop retardant on the flames.

The vast landscape charred by the blaze, which is centered less than 100 miles (161 km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles, reached 259,000 acres (104,813 hectares) early on Saturday, surpassing the 257,314 acres (104,131 hectares) destroyed by California's Rim Fire in 2013, authorities said. The Rim Fire had been the third-largest blaze on record in the state.

The Thomas Fire is only 40 percent contained and it threatens 18,000 structures, officials said, including some in the wealthy enclave of Montecito just outside the city of Santa Barbara. The blaze is chewing up tall grass and brush as it expands along the scenic Pacific Coast.

The hot Santa Ana winds that have helped the fire grow, at times sending embers far ahead of its main flank, were forecast to remain strong through Saturday evening in the Santa Barbara County mountains, the National Weather Service warned. Gusts of up to 40 miles per hour (64 km/h) were expected.

  

16 PHOTOS
The most devastating images from California's wildfires
See Gallery
The most devastating images from California's wildfires
Thomas wildfire burns above Bella Vista Drive near Romero Canyon in this social media photo by Santa Barbara County Fire Department in Montecito, California, U.S. December 12, 2017. Courtesy Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Fire fighters attack the Thomas Fire?s north flank with backfires as they continue to fight a massive wildfire north of Los Angeles, near Ojai , California, U.S., December 9, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A firefighter is working on extinguishing the Lilac Fire, a fast moving wildfire, in Bonsall, California, U.S., December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Firefighters work at the top of a hill as the Lilac Fire burns through Bonsall, California, U.S., December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Firefighters battle to save one of many homes burning in an early-morning Creek Fire that broke out in the Kagel Canyon area in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, in Sylmar, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Fire engulfs horse stables after an early-morning Creek Fire that broke out in the Kagel Canyon area in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, in Sylmar, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
A firefighting helicopter makes a water drop on the Lilac Fire, a fast moving wildfire in Bonsall, California, U.S., December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A horse which was left behind after an early-morning Creek Fire that broke out in the Kagel Canyon area in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, is seen in Sylmar, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
Burned up trees glow red in the dark after an early-morning Creek Fire that broke out in the Kagel Canyon area in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, in Sylmar, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
Firefighters battle flames from a Santa Ana wind-driven brush fire called the Thomas Fire in Santa Paula, California, December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
Area residents walk through a neighborhood destroyed by wildfire in Santa Rosa, California, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
An aerial shows damage caused by wildfires in Santa Rosa, California, U.S October 11, 2017. Picture taken October 11, 2017. REUTERS/DroneBase
A wildfire is shown from the air near Atlas Road during an operation to rescue people trapped by wildfire in Napa, California, U.S., October 9, 2017. Photo taken October 9, 2017. Courtesy California Highway Patrol/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
The Canyon Fire burns hillsides in Corona, California, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
The Canyon Fire burns hillsides above houses in Corona, California, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot
Firefighters watch a helicopter make a water drop on a wildfire burning behind the Getty Center in Mandeville Canyon in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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From Saturday night through Sunday evening, the winds could lash neighboring Ventura County, the Weather Service said. That is where the Thomas Fire first began due to unknown causes, and where it was still burning.

Cal Fire engineer Cory Iverson, 32, died on Thursday while battling the flames near the Ventura County community of Fillmore. Fire officials said Iverson, the blaze's first fatality, left behind a pregnant wife and 2-year-old daughter.

The Thomas Fire was one of several major blazes that broke out in Southern California this month, although the others have been contained.

The blazes forced many schools to close for days, shut roads and drove hundreds of thousands from their homes. The fires were also responsible for poor air quality throughout Southern California. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Mark Potter and Grant McCool)

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