Thomas Fire on course to become California's largest-ever wildfire

A huge blaze that has devastated swaths of southern California is on course to become the largest wildfire in the sta...

Posted: Dec 18, 2017 3:35 PM
Updated: Dec 18, 2017 3:35 PM

A huge blaze that has devastated swaths of southern California is on course to become the largest wildfire in the state's modern history.

The Thomas Fire, the biggest of a number of blazes in California, is currently the state's third largest since reliable records began in 1932, with 270,000 acres burned. The largest, the 2003 Cedar Fire, destroyed 273,246 acres.

Diminishing winds and increasing humidity are in the forecast over the next couple of days, hopeful news for beleaguered Californians and fatigued firefighters. But there is still little rain forecast for the next 10 days, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.

The Thomas Fire also is currently the third-most destructive in structure losses, with more than 1,000 buildings burned, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire.

The spate of fires, which have burned for two weeks without respite, have affected over 100,000 Californians, many of whom have been forced to flee their homes, either through mandatory or voluntary evacuations -- with no guarantee that they will have anything left when they return.

According to an update released by Cal Fire, 18,000 structures are still threatened as the Thomas Fire rages on. As of Sunday night, it was still only 45% contained, the alert states. Authorities predict the fire will be contained by January 7.

While thousands of residents threatened by the fire remain under evacuation, others have been allowed back in their homes -- or, at least, what was left of them.

The fire is so massive that more than 8,400 firefighters are working around the clock to save lives and contain it. It's bigger in acreage than the area covered by New York City, and has turned neighborhoods to piles of soot and concrete as it churns through the area.

The California wildfires by the numbers

The latest

- Improving weather conditions: Winds should die down and stay that way through Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) Los Angeles. However, northerly winds are expected to pick back up Wednesday evening, and Santa Ana winds are possible Thursday into the weekend.

- Long-awaited rain: Trace amounts of rain were observed with the frontal passage in Van Nuys, Burbank, Lancaster, Palmdale, and Los Angeles International Airport, says CNN's Pedram Javaheri.

- Hefty price tag: About $110 million has been spent fighting the massive blaze, fire officials said. This year has been the costliest for wildfires in US history. Damage has topped $10 billion -- and that was before the current fires began in Southern California.

- Multiple casualties: A total of two people, including one firefighter, have been killed since the fires started.

Wildfire destroys homes but not the holiday spirit

Funeral procession

A funeral procession passing through five counties Sunday carried the remains of firefighter Cory David Iverson, 32, who died in the blaze. The procession began in Ventura and passed through Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties before arriving at at a funeral home in San Diego.

Iverson, from Escondido, leaves behind his pregnant wife and 2-year-old daughter, according to CNN affiliate KCAL.

He died of "thermal injuries and smoke inhalation," according to autopsy results from the Ventura County medical examiner's office. An investigation into the death is underway, KCAL reported.

The affiliate reported that first-responders including firefighters, many of whom didn't know Iverson personally, lined the procession route.

Many praised the young firefighter's actions.

"With Cory, they said, he got his guys out first. And he didn't get out. So (he was) the captain of the ship," Bruce Cartelli, retired San Diego Fire Chief, told KCAL.

Displaced resident: '100 ft flames all around us'

Jeannette Frescas told CNN affiliate KEYT that she was awakened by towering flames when the fire reached her neighborhood in Ventura, California.

"I looked out my window and there were flames that were like, a hundred feet, all around us," Frescas said.

Like many residents, Frescas was caught off guard by the fire.

"What was once a paradise was like a war zone," Frescas said of her apartment complex, which was destroyed by the blaze. "It's the scariest thing I've been through in my entire life."

Ventura resident Patricia Rye woke up to her son-in-law pounding on her door. She didn't get a chance to pack any valuables, and fled her home of 17 years in the dead of the night.

"I didn't have time to take anything," Rye told the affiliate. "My wallet, or any of my personal things. I literally left with the clothes on my back."

Couple loses two homes in two months to California wildfires

Terre Haute
Few Clouds
89° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 91°
Robinson
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 94°
Indianapolis
Scattered Clouds
86° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 88°
Rockville
Broken Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 84°
Casey
Few Clouds
88° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 94°
Brazil
Few Clouds
89° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 91°
Marshall
Few Clouds
89° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 91°
Sunshine for the afternoon but storms tonight
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 152899

Reported Deaths: 7345
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook946054693
Lake10253428
DuPage9571483
Kane8028281
Will7171324
Winnebago3161104
McHenry2229101
St. Clair2202144
Kankakee140165
Unassigned1175201
Rock Island114230
Madison113370
Kendall103223
Champaign101817
Boone63021
Peoria62830
DeKalb61920
Sangamon50933
Jackson34719
McLean30815
Randolph2997
Ogle2864
Stephenson2826
LaSalle24617
Clinton24517
Macon24322
Whiteside20815
Union20219
Coles19017
Grundy1885
Iroquois1725
Tazewell1678
Knox1570
Adams1511
Monroe15013
Warren1470
Williamson1454
Cass1378
Morgan1323
Jefferson11517
Henry1061
Lee1052
McDonough10415
Vermilion862
Pulaski810
Marion770
Montgomery691
Macoupin663
Perry611
Douglas550
Livingston542
Jo Daviess521
Christian494
Jasper477
Woodford442
Ford421
Franklin400
Jersey401
Clark360
Bureau352
Menard310
Cumberland300
Mercer280
Effingham271
Washington250
Johnson240
Mason240
Fayette233
Wabash230
Alexander220
Carroll212
Piatt210
Hancock201
Moultrie200
Shelby201
Bond191
Crawford190
Logan180
Edgar170
De Witt160
Fulton160
Saline160
Wayne161
Massac150
Schuyler130
Marshall120
Brown100
Lawrence90
White90
Greene80
Henderson80
Richland80
Hamilton70
Stark70
Pike60
Gallatin50
Edwards30
Clay20
Hardin20
Out of IL20
Calhoun10
Pope10
Putnam10
Scott10

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 50300

Reported Deaths: 2748
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11920692
Lake5432248
Elkhart347058
Allen2902133
St. Joseph205169
Hamilton1665101
Cass16449
Hendricks1446100
Johnson1325118
Porter80238
Tippecanoe7599
Clark68144
Vanderburgh6816
Madison67264
LaPorte60527
Howard59458
Bartholomew59345
Kosciusko5704
Marshall5308
Noble50128
LaGrange4829
Jackson4783
Boone47444
Delaware46952
Hancock46036
Shelby43525
Floyd40444
Morgan33631
Monroe32928
Grant30926
Dubois2976
Henry29717
Montgomery29720
Clinton2893
White26810
Decatur25532
Dearborn25423
Lawrence25225
Vigo2478
Warrick24329
Harrison21722
Greene19332
Miami1922
Jennings17912
Putnam1728
DeKalb1674
Scott1639
Wayne1536
Daviess15017
Perry1459
Orange13723
Steuben1362
Jasper1332
Franklin1278
Ripley1277
Wabash1152
Carroll1132
Gibson1132
Fayette1057
Whitley1045
Newton10010
Starke983
Huntington932
Randolph794
Wells791
Jefferson782
Fulton731
Jay680
Washington681
Knox670
Clay665
Pulaski661
Rush613
Posey550
Owen521
Benton510
Spencer501
Adams491
Sullivan471
Brown431
Blackford402
Fountain352
Crawford330
Tipton321
Switzerland300
Martin240
Parke230
Ohio220
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union130
Pike110
Unassigned0193