Massive Thomas Fire reaches 88 percent containment, forward progression stopped

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017
A helicopter drops water on active flames from the Thomas Fire in a file photo.
A helicopter drops water on active flames from the Thomas Fire in a file photo.

VENTURA, Calif. (KABC) -- The Thomas Fire, which has burned homes in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, reached 88 percent containment Tuesday after charring 281,620 acres.

Cal Fire statistics label the Thomas Fire as the largest California wildfire in modern history. The Cedar Fire, which charred more than 273,000 acres through San Diego in October 2003, used to be the largest wildfire.

Nearly 900 firefighters remain battling the fire that is burning in parts of the Los Padres National Forest. The forward progression of the blaze has stopped, according to fire officials, and crews gained the upper hand despite steep and rugged terrain.

The fire started on Dec. 4 in the Steckel Park area of Santa Paula near Thomas Aquinas College. Within a few hours, the blaze spread and headed into the city of Ventura, prompting thousands of evacuations.

Homes in dozens of hillside neighborhoods, as well as popular spots and landmarks in the city, were destroyed as the blaze continued to grow. It frequently threatened areas in Santa Paula, Ojai, Fillmore, Casitas Springs and La Conchita before moving into Santa Barbara County.

Hundreds of people in that county were evacuated from Carpinteria, Montecito and Summerland.

The fire claimed the lives of Cory Iverson, a firefighter from San Diego, and a 70-year-old Santa Paula woman who crashed her vehicle while fleeing the blaze.

More than 1,000 structures were burned down and 280 damaged, according to Cal Fire, which makes the blaze the seventh most destructive fire in the state.

Firefighters expect to fully contain the fire by Jan. 7 as long as weather conditions remain favorable.