California Fire Now Bigger Than NYC

'Squirrely' winds are making firefighting difficult
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2017 4:03 AM CST
Updated Dec 11, 2017 6:46 AM CST
In this early morning Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 photo released by Santa Barbara County Fire Department, firefighters working on structure protection keep a close eye on nearby flames atop Shepard Mesa Road...   (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)
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(Newser) – One of several wildfires burning in southern California is now the fifth-biggest fire on record in the state and firefighters are losing ground: Containment of the Thomas fire slipped from 15% to 10% as wind speeds picked up Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reports. The fire, which has now spread from Ventura County into Santa Barbara County, has now scorched an area of at least 230,000 acres, larger than New York City, reports the BBC. Fire crews are fighting to protect the oceanside city of Carpinteria. Authorities say the fire has been racing through areas of dry vegetation that haven't burned in 100 years.

At least 200,000 people have been forced to flee their homes by the seven wildfires burning in the region and authorities say factors including high winds and strong rain will make things tough as the fight continues for a second week. "The winds are kind of squirrely right now," said county fire spokesman Mike Eliason, per the AP. "Some places the smoke is going straight up in the air, and others it's blowing sideways. Depends on what canyon we're in." At least 800 homes and other buildings have been destroyed. When he toured devastated neighborhoods in the city of Ventura over the weekend, Gov. Jerry Brown called the fires the "new normal." (Read more California wildfires stories.)

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