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Thomas fire becomes the largest in California’s history

A southern California wildfire that has burned hundreds of thousands of acres outside Los Angeles over the last three weeks is the largest in the state’s history, fire officials said Friday.

The Thomas fire has swept through 273,400 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties since Dec. 4 and is still only 65 percent contained, according to a report released by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.

One firefighter was killed and more than 1,000 structures have been destroyed in the blaze. Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes as the fire spread across 427 square miles, mainly along the California coast roughly 60 miles north of Los Angeles.

More than half of the burned acreage took place on U.S. National Forest land, according to the federal and state agencies overseeing the fire. High winds that at times reached more than 70 mph helped to drive the widespread blaze.

“The Thomas fire has experienced a long duration Santa Ana wind event, which began on December 4th, and has contributed to rapid growth and extreme fire behavior,” officials from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group posted online. “These cool dry air masses sweep across the deserts of eastern California through the mountain passes and canyons to the Pacific Ocean.”

The amount of acreage burned by Thomas has exceeded the 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego County, which spread across 273,246 acres and killed 15 people before firefighters brought it under control, according to the National Weather Service.