The Thomas fire, which continues to ravage Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, is now officially the second-worst in the history of California — and is rapidly closing in on the top spot.
The fire has now burned across 272,000 acres as of Tuesday evening, according to the Los Angeles Times. It will only need to burn through just over 1,000 more acres to surpass the 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego County to become the largest in the recorded history of the Golden State, the Fresno Bee notes.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says that the Thomas fire is now 55% contained, and will not be fully contained until January 8, according to the Times.
The Bee notes that firefighters expect winds to increase on Wednesday evening:
Officials are expecting a “significant wind event” beginning Wednesday evening and into Thursday, according to National Weather Service incident meteorologist Rich Thompson.
Thompson said wind gusts could reach 35 to 55 mph across the front country of Santa Barbara. The winds in Ventura County are expected to be less strong (35 to 40 mph), Thompson added.
There are more than 6,500 firefighters still deployed against the Thomas fire. One firefighter, 32-year-old Cory Iverson, died fighting the blaze last week. Over 1,000 structures have been destroyed, according to Southern California Public Radio, and tens of thousands have been evacuated. Many roads remain closed, and parts of the region have not seen clear skies for days, despite clear weather.
The causes of the fire are not yet known. One fire that burned at the same time, the Skirball fire in West Los Angeles, was determined to have been caused by a cooking fire in a homeless encampment.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.