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California fires consume 230,000 acres in the past week

The Thomas fire is now the fifth largest wildfire in modern California history, scorching an area larger than New York City

11 December 2017, 9:22am
Wildfires in California have consumed 230,000 acres in the past week, making it the fifth largest wildfire in modern California history.

The Thomas fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties has consumed 230,000 acres in the past week, scorching an area larger than New York City.

The fire triggered new evacuation orders for about 5,000 county residents on Sunday after it grew by more than 50,000 acres in a day, including those east of Mission Canyon and north of Highway 192. An additional 30,000 residents west of Mission Canyon to Highway 154 and south of Highway 192 to the county line were told to prepare to leave.

"This is a menacing fire, certainly, but we have a lot of people working very diligently to bring it under control," Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.

The blaze has destroyed over 520 structures, and damaged 135 in the city of Ventura. In the unincorporated areas of Ventura County, 266 structures have been destroyed, while 56 were damaged. The fire also consumed six structures n Sunday in beach town of Carpinteria, authorities said.        

An analyst with the California fire protection department, Tim Chavez, said the emergency services were struggling because "a hot interior" was in parts practically meeting the ocean, making access difficult.

"It's just a very difficult place to fight fire," Mr Chavez said, adding: "It's very dangerous and has a historical record of multiple fatalities occurring over the years."

Other fires hitting California are largely controlled, but 200,000 people have evacuated their homes, and some 800 buildings have been destroyed since 4 December.

California has spent the past seven days battling the wilfires, as six large blazes and other smaller ones erupted on Monday night.

The Thomas Fire - named according to where it started, near the Thomas Aquinas College - is by far the largest of the fires.