More than 8,000 firefighters are battling the Thomas fire in Santa Barbara County, according to California fire officials.
That astonishing amount of personnel makes it the largest wildfire response operation in California history, according to a report Thursday by the Los Angeles Times, which noted that firefighting efforts against the blaze now in its third week had so far cost more than $130 million.
The fire has burned 271,000 acres, making it the third largest in the state’s history, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. Officials expect the blaze will become the largest fire in the state’s history before it’s put out, which Cal Fire hopes will be in early January.
The Thomas fire was 50 percent contained on Monday, a day which officials said had favorable weather conditions for their efforts.
“We’ve had a very productive day,” Deputy Chief Mark Brown of Cal Fire told The Associated Press. “The weather conditions were just right for us.”
But changing wind conditions have periodically refueled the long-running blaze.
The inferno has thus far claimed the life of 32-year-old Cal Fire engineer Corey Iverson of San Diego, as well as Virginia Pesola, 70, of Santa Paula, who was killed in a car crash while evacuating form her home.
The state has been up against the wall covering the demanding financial and physical costs of fighting the blaze. Firefighters have been working grueling three-week shifts, and expect to be working through the holidays, the Times reported.
With climate change bringing less precipitation and hotter weather to California, Gov. Jerry Brown fears this year’s horrific fire season could become the “new normal” for the state. More than twice as many acres burned in the state this year as they did in 2016 ― with some 6,982 fires burning over 500,000 acres from Jan. 1 to Dec. 10 this year.
“We’re facing a new reality in this state, where fires threaten people’s lives, their property, their neighborhoods,” and cost “billions and billions of dollars,” Brown said at a news conference earlier this month. “This is very odd and unusual. But it is the way the world is with the kind of carbon pollution that we’re not only living with but that we’re generating still.”