California wildfires scorch area larger than New York City

Officials say the largest, most destructive wildfire burning in Southern California is expected to grow as it enters its second week.
The fire has destroyed almost 800 structures. Picture; APThe fire has destroyed almost 800 structures. Picture; AP
The fire has destroyed almost 800 structures. Picture; AP

The Thomas Fire north of Los Angeles has burned more than 270 square miles, prompted tens of thousands of evacuations and destroyed nearly 800 structures.

The fire that started Dec. 4 is 15 percent contained. It was fanned by dry Santa Ana winds that spit embers ahead of fire lines.

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Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown says the containment number will likely go down not because of a lack of progress, but because of the fire’s expected growth.

Picture; APPicture; AP
Picture; AP

The National Weather Service says gusts up to 40 mph are expected through Monday.

As of late Sunday, the Thomas Fire had destroyed 790 structures and damaged 191.

Fires are not typical in Southern California this time of year but can break out when dry vegetation and too little rain combine with the Santa Ana winds. Though the state emerged this spring from a yearslong drought, hardly any measurable rain has fallen in the region over the past six months.

“This is the new normal,” Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown warned Saturday after surveying damage from the deadly Ventura fire. The governor and experts said climate change is making wildfires a year-round threat.

High fire risk is expected to last into January.

More than 30,000 people are under mandatory evacuation orders.

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