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article imageCalifornia wildfire grows as Santa Ana winds continue to blow

By Karen Graham     Dec 16, 2017 in Environment
Los Angeles - The so-called Thomas Fire in Southern California has grown to become the third largest fire on record in the state, destroying more than 1,000 buildings, including well over 700 homes, as well as taking the life of a firefighter.
The statistics on the massive blaze, which is still only 35 percent contained, are mind-blowing. The vast fire scene is only 100 miles (161 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles, according to Reuters.
The size of the charred landscape reached 259,000 acres (104,813 hectares) early on Saturday, surpassing the 257,314 acres (104,131 hectares) destroyed by California’s Rim Fire in 2013. Authorities say the Rim Fire had been the state's third largest on record until today.
Red Flag Warnings in effect across CA into the weekend. Conditions are very dry & warm.
Red Flag Warnings in effect across CA into the weekend. Conditions are very dry & warm.
Cal Fire
The National Weather Service has forecast extreme fire danger or "red flag" conditions through at least Saturday evening, with wind gusts of 40 miles per hour (64 km/h) expected. Winds are expected to pick up Saturday night through Sunday evening in Ventura County, where the fires first started.
Record spending on wildfires this year
As of Friday, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire, had spent just over $600 million on fires this year across the state, including $89 million spent, so far, on the Thomas Fire in Southern California’s Ventura County.
This is well over the $426.8 million budgeted for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. “It’s very much a big deal, and keep in mind that we’re only halfway through the fiscal year,” Chief Scott McLean, a spokesman for Cal Fire, told the Huffington Post.
Cal Fire
And while state and federal agencies have been stretched to their limits, with over 9,000 firefighters tasked with battling six major wildfires this month alone, officials were quick to assure people firefighters will not run out of funds anytime soon.
"The state will always have the money it needs to get the resources to protect lives and property in California,” Janet Upton, the deputy director of Cal Fire and a 31-year veteran of the agency, said in a phone call, noting the state can apply for federal grants to help offset the cost of natural disasters. “There’s a system in place for whenever we exceed the initial budget.”
Climate change has the state in its crosshairs
With luck, the Thomas Fire could be contained in early January. However, what is happening in California could become a common occurrence, Governor Jerry Brown told a state Senate committee in July, adding that "climate change has California in its crosshairs."
The Thomas Fire update on Friday night stated the blaze located near Hwy 150 and Hwy 126  north of S...
The Thomas Fire update on Friday night stated the blaze located near Hwy 150 and Hwy 126, north of Santa Paula (Ventura County) is now 256,000 acres and 35% contained.
Cal Fire
“This could be something that happens every year or every few years,” he said during a news conference last weekend, according to the Los Angeles Times. “We’re about to have a firefighting Christmas.”
Not only do these massive wildfires destroy everything in their paths, they also cause billions of dollars in insurance losses to individual families, businesses, and the state's economy. And the fires are deadly.
The Thomas Fire has now claimed two victims, a 70-year-old woman found in a crashed car on an evacuation route last week, and Cal Fire engineer Cory Iverson, 32, who died Thursday while battling the flames near the Ventura County community of Fillmore. Fire officials said Iverson left behind a pregnant wife and 2-year-old daughter.
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