Thomas Fire still 60 percent contained after ‘significant wind event’

Update Thursday, 7 a.m.

The Thomas Fire grew slightly overnight, bringing total acres scorched to 272,200. It’s still 60 percent contained.

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Some favorable weather conditions on Wednesday allowed crews battling the Thomas Fire to increase containment to 60 percent, according to an update from Cal Fire.

The blaze held steady at 272,000 acres — the second-largest wildfire in California history — with a “significant wind event” expected to hit Wednesday night and carry into Thursday morning.

Cal Fire reported the total cost since the Thomas Fire began on Dec. 4 is more than $161 million. More than 1,000 structures have been destroyed and 18,000 remain threatened.

Santa Barbara County Fire Department battalion chief Chris Childers said Wednesday during a community meeting at San Marcos High School that crews “have secured the Santa Barbara side of this fire.”

“I believe we’ve done it so well that we’re now getting the test,” Childers said. “The wind test that’s coming tonight will be the true test to see that we have done our job correctly.”

There have been no changes in evacuation orders over the last 24 hours, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.

About 16,000 Santa Barbara residents are still under mandatory evacuation orders, and 12,000 remain under evacuation warning. Brown said there are plans in place if more evacuations are ordered during the wind event.

“Tonight will be a turning point in this fire and it will be wind-tested,” Brown said. “We are holding steady at the moment until we get passed this event. … As we are all well aware, this fire has proven to be stubborn and unpredictable. And we certainly hope the wind event is uneventful.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to Cal Fire.

A look at the largest wildfires in California, per Cal Fire:

▪  Cedar Fire: Burned 273,246 acres. October 2003 in San Diego County. A lost hunter started the blaze to signal for help.

▪  Thomas Fire: Has burned 272,000 acres so far. Cause is under investigation.

▪  Rush Fire: Burned 271,911 acres in California, and 43,666 in Nevada. August 2012 in Lassen County. Started by lightning.

▪  Rim Fire: Burned 257,314 acres. August 2013 in Tuolumne County. Started by an illegal campfire.

▪  Zaca Fire: Burned 240,207 acres. July 2007 in Santa Barbara County. Started by sparks from grinding equipment during a water pipe repair.

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