The massive wildfire that California has been battling since early December has now ballooned into the third-largest in the state's history, burning a record amount of acreage, officials said Saturday.
Steve Concialdi of the Orange County Fire Authority said the Thomas Fire, which started Dec. 4 in Santa Paula, has now burned 259,000 acres (nearly 105,000 hectares). That exceeds the devastating Rim Fire in 2013 by 2,000 acres.
"As of this morning, we're at 259,000 acres and still growing," Concialdi said.
The region has had "red flag" — or hot, dry and windy — conditions for an unprecedented 13 consecutive days.
The National Weather Service says those conditions would last at least through Saturday evening, with winds gusting to 40 mph in the Santa Barbara County mountains where the fire is burning.
#ThomasFire [update] Hwy 150 and Hwy 126, north of Santa Paula (Ventura County) is now 259,000 acres and 40% contained. Unified Command: CAL FIRE, @VCFD_PIO, @LosPadresNF, and @VenturaCityFD. https://t.co/vfLtDXYjzO pic.twitter.com/fXKX3A4OWt
— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) December 16, 2017
Everything about the fire was massive, from a footprint larger than that of many cities to the sheer scale of destruction that cremated entire neighborhoods or the legions attacking it: about 8,300 firefighters from nearly a dozen states, aided by 77 bulldozers and 32 helicopters that were dropping thousands of gallons (liters) of water on fires and hot spots.