Map shows Thomas Fire on track to break record for largest wildfire


A California wildfire is set to break a state record for the largest blaze in modern history, even as light snow dusts the region ahead of Christmas, marking a historically unusual time for a forest fire reaches record size.

The Thomas Fire has terrorized Southern California since early December, engulfing 272,600 acres in the region as firefighters continue to push back the blaze. As of Friday morning, the Thomas Fire remained the second-largest blaze in California history with 65% containment. December’s firefight remained daunting throughout the month as dry weather and high winds fueled growing wildfires along the coast.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection map shows the expansion of Thomas Fire on Thursday.

As the Thomas Fire continues to burn, it is on track to surpass the record-breaking 2003 Cedar Fire in California, which killed 15 people and destroyed 273,246 acres in south San Diego. The Thomas Fire earned the second-largest wildfire designation Tuesday by overtaking the Rush Fire, which burned 271,911 acres in 2012. As of Friday morning, the Thomas Fire was about 1 square mile smaller than the Cedar Fire.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported Thursday evening that “a small amount of snow” and relative humidity helped reduce the rapid consumption of dry fuel by wildfires in the region. Powerful winds in the region reached 50 miles per hour in the region on Thursday, continuing to make firefighters wary of their ability to quickly accelerate small fires into big problems.

Smaller wildfires that scorched parts of Southern California were mostly extinguished on Friday, relieving firefighters who battled wildfires on multiple fronts. The Creek Fire, which broke out in a Los Angeles neighborhood, is 98% contained, but a “fire weather watch” remains in effect through Friday, and all but one evacuation zone has been lifted.

The Thomas fire killed two people: firefighter Cory Iverson and civilian Virginia Rae Pesola. As of Friday, the shooting had cost $170 million and burned more than 1,060 buildings, leaving a path of destruction as around 6,800 firefighters battled the blaze. The fire is expected to reach full containment on January 7, 2018.

Related: California fire map update: Thomas Fire second largest in state history

Firefighters have been working to keep wildfires away from California’s most populated areas while limiting fuel for expansion. The land destruction caused by the December fires exceeds that of the state’s October wildfires, which burned 245,000 acres and killed 43 people near Napa Valley.

Firefighting organizations have recommended people donate to area community partners, like the Salvation Army and the Rescue Mission Alliance, if they want to help in California.


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