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MASSIVE CALIFORNIA WILDFIRE, FIREFIGHTERS WRESTLE TO CONTROLA massive California wildfire that has already destroyed nearly 700 homes in its path of destruction crept closer to the
upscale hillside community of Montecito on Tuesday despite calmer winds that slowed its progress.
The Thomas Fire, which broke out on Dec. 4 near the community of Ojai, has since spread 27 miles (43 km) to become the fifth largest blaze in state history. It has blackened more than 366 square miles (948 square kilometers) in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, an area larger than New York City.
Officials said that while the conflagration charred another 2,500 acres overnight, a break in the hot, dry Santa Ana winds on Tuesday sapped its forward momentum and allowed crews to prevent further damage to homes.

 “It’s doing what we want it to do. The fire is staying away from the homes,” said Captain Steve Concialdi of the California Department of Forestry of Fire Protection.
Concialdi said that some of the 7,000 firefighters deployed against the blaze had taken advantage of the better weather to set controlled burns in a canyon near the community of Carpinteria in an effort to further deprive the flames of fuel.
The National Weather Service has warned that the Santa Ana winds could return as early as Wednesday, meaning that the fire remains dangerous and unpredictable.
“Severe fire weather will continue to promote significant fire growth further into Santa Barbara County, threatening the communities of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Montecito and Summerland,” Cal Fire said in a statement.
Thanks to the firefighters’ efforts, Warner, a 45-year-old writer, said she had no plans to evacuate despite the heavy smoke that cut visibility to about 50 feet (15 meters) on what would have otherwise been a sunny day.

“We plan to stick it out for at least another day, hoping that conditions will get better,” she said through her face mask before going into a grocery store. “I just worry about the health of my kids.”
Nearly 7,000 firefighters were battling the Thomas Fire, which has destroyed almost 900 structures including more than 690 homes. The inferno, which threatens about 18,000 structures, was 20 percent contained by Tuesday afternoon.
Efforts to combat the wildfire, which has displaced more than 94,000 people, have cost more than $48 million to date.
Public schools in Santa Barbara and school districts nearby have canceled classes this week and will not reopen until the annual winter break is completed in January, officials said.
Some of the other fires burning over the past week in San Diego and Los Angeles counties have been largely brought under control by the thousands of firefighters on the ground.


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