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Ongoing SoCal wildfire largest in state history
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VENTURA (AP) — The massive wildfire that plagued a wide swath of the Southern California coast for 2½ weeks is now the largest in state history.
Fire officials said in Friday the Thomas Fire blaze was 65 percent contained and had burned nearly 450 square miles or roughly the third the size of San Joaquin County or an area nine times larger than the City of San Francisco.  It overtook the previous record holder, a blaze that struck San Diego County in 2003.
The last mandatory evacuation orders for the fire were called off by Thursday. At its peak, the fire drove about 100,000 people from their homes in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Only a remote wilderness valley remained under a voluntary evacuation warning.
Authorities said the fire is moving slowly in wilderness on its north flank but there was minimal activity elsewhere.
The passage of a cold front through the area late in the week produced strong winds in the Montecito area near Santa Barbara but caused no remarkable fire behavior, officials said. Use of controlled burns to clear brush were temporarily hampered by a spike in humidity and a light frosting of snow dusted the tops of some ridges.
The Thomas Fire, which began Dec. 4, is responsible for two deaths and has destroyed at least 750 homes.
Days of fierce, often erratic gusts combined with extremely dry weather pushed the blaze with incredible speed as it moved through Ventura County’s agricultural Santa Clara Valley, into the city of Ventura and then moved northwestward, threatening the coastal communities of Santa Barbara County.