The Thomas Fire in Southern California spread to a record-level size Friday, breaking the state record for largest wildfire as it continues to burn across the region with 65-percent containment.
That was 154 acres larger than California's previous fire record holder - the 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego County that killed 15 people. Two people have died as a result: a 70-year-old woman who was fleeing and got into a vehicle crash, and a firefighter who was working on the front lines. Firefighters have been battling the flames for almost three weeks in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and are expected to continue working around the clock until January 7, fire officials said.
Officials warned that residents in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties could see an increase in wildlife, as these animals may be displaced from the forested areas where what's left of the blaze is still burning. At 273,246 acres, the Cedar fire killed 15 people and burned almost 3,000 structures before officials were able to get a handle on it.
The milestone reaffirmed 2017 as the most destructive fire season on record in the state.
"The main fire itself will not have any growth", said Capt. Brandon Vaccaro of the California City Fire Department. In October, a series of fires in wine country burned more than 10,000 homes and killed more than 40 people. Most evacuation zones have been lifted, allowing Californians to return to their homes and assess the damage.
Depending on wind and weather conditions, firefighters plan to start a controlled burn with hopes that winds from the north will push the flames away from the highway and south toward the main body of the fire.
Cal-Fire Public Information Officer Daniel Berlant told Newsweek that the Thomas Fire is "not actively growing", but there are still fire-fighting operations along the outer edges of the wildfire where it consumed additional acreage on Friday.