California Wildfire Now Fifth-Largest In State History (Photos)

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The fire that began on Dec. 4 in Ventura County, California, is now the fifth-largest fire in the state's history at 230,000 acres. With dry conditions persisting, the fire is likely to grow as the blaze enters its second week.

The Thomas Fire -- named for its origin near Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula -- grew rapidly in its first days of burning, forcing mandatory evacuations in the cities of Ventura, Ojai, Santa Paula and surrounding unincorporated communities.

Evacuations had been lifted for most major areas in Ventura County by Dec. 10, reports the Los Angeles Times. But gusty Santa Ana winds blew the fire westward toward Santa Barbara County that same day, sparking new neighborhoods to evacuate.

CalFire reported that at least 95,000 people in Southern California have been evacuated, according to CNN.

The fire is now larger than the size of New York City and shows little to no sign of stopping due to ample vegetation for fuel. Plumes of smoke rise from the flames, threatening air quality of neighboring cities.

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As of Dec. 10, the fire has threatened more than 25,000 homes and cost $34 million to fight.

Due to the rapid growth of the fire on Dec. 10, containment briefly fell from 15 percent to 10 percent. It has since regained its 15 percent containment status, NPR reports.

More than 5,700 firefighters deployed to fight the Thomas Fire on Dec. 10, CNN reports. More than 9,000 firefighters remain in California fighting other fires that sprung up throughout the week.

While the Thomas Fire is by far the most destructive Southern California blaze, the Creek Fire, Rye Fire, Skirball Fire, Liberty Fire and Lilac Fire also threaten homes throughout the state. Those fires range from 80 percent to 100 percent contained. The largest of those fires, the Creek Fire, is still less than one-tenth of the size of Thomas.

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Speaking at the Ventura County Fairgrounds on Dec. 9, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown of California suggested the state will see many more fires like Thomas in the years to come.

"With climate change, some scientists are saying that Southern California is literally burning up," said Brown, according to CNN. "So we have to have the resources to combat the fires and we also have to invest in managing the vegetation and forests ... in a place that's getting hotter."

"This could be something that happens every year or every few years," Brown said, reports the Los Angeles Times. "We're about to have a firefighting Christmas."

Sources: Los Angeles Times, CNN (2), NPR / Featured Image: Andrea Booher/FEMA / Embedded Images: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times

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