Thomas fire becomes the largest in California's history

Local firefighters return home after battling catastrophic California wildfires

Above: The perimeter of the 427-square-mile fire overlaid on the Bay Area.

Crews fighting the Thomas Fire on Christmas Eve had the blaze 86 percent contained as they continued to battle what became the largest wildfire in modern California history Friday.

The Thomas Fire surpassed the size of the Cedar Fire near San Diego, which destroyed 273,246 acres in 2003.

If the perimeter of the Thomas Fire were laid over the south end of the San Francisco Bay Area, it would stretch from the ocean to Mount Hamilton, and from the Palo Alto baylands to the summit of Highway 17.

December 24-Low winds continued to help firefighters make progress against the epic Thomas fire on Sunday, and favorable weather should provide further relief over the Christmas holiday, authorities said.

Cause of the blaze, which began near Thomas Aquinas College north of Santa Paula, remained under investigation amid reports that investigators were looking at Southern California Edison Co equipment.

The fire has destroyed over 1,000 structures as it has scorched coastal mountains, foothills and canyons across Ventura and Santa Barbara counties northwest of Los Angeles, officials said. Temperatures are expected to reach the low- to mid-70s next week in Santa Barbara. Thanks to shorter days and a lack of strong winds the Incident Management Team does not expect any additional significant spread of the fire, other than strategic burning to secure the fire edge.

The fire burned hundreds of homes and prompted mass evacuations. "Any growth that we see or is reflected in the acreage will be based on the control burns".

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