US & Canada

California Thomas Fire: No end in sight for week-long wildfire

Man stands watching the fire burn Image copyright Getty
Image caption The Thomas Fire has displaced thousands of people

California firefighters continue to battle one of the largest fires in the state's history as wind and dry weather make it nearly impossible to contain.

The Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties has consumed 234,000 acres (950 sq km) in just over a week.

Destroying 900 properties, including 690 homes, it has become the fifth largest wildfire in recorded state history.

Some 94,000 residents have been displaced in the last week.

Though the fire has continued to spread, firefighters reported that 20% of the blaze had been contained by Tuesday morning, up from 10% on Sunday.

Around 7,000 firefighters have been deployed to fight the blaze, but steep slopes and rocky terrain have made it dangerous to tackle the flames.

"We are not going to put firefighters in harm's way half way up a steep, rocky slope. We are going to wait for the fire to come to us and extinguish it where it is safe," Cal Fire spokesman Ian McDonald said.

Image copyright MARK RALSTON
Image caption Firefighters face challenging conditions

Efforts to combat the wildfire have already totalled more than $48 million (£36 million).

Many local school districts have cancelled classes this week and will not reopen until after the new year.

California has spent the past eight days battling wildfires. Six large blazes, and other smaller ones, started last week in the south of the state.

Some of the other fires have been largely brought under control.

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

The blazes show no signs of letting up as gusts of wind up to 40mph (65km/h) and low humidity until Thursday will pose a continued challenge to firefighters.

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Media captionThe Thomas Fire has the potential to be one of the worst in California's history

The authorities issued a purple alert - the highest level warning - amid what it called "extremely critical fire weather", while US President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency.

Several firefighters have been injured, and a 70-year-old woman was found dead in her car on an evacuation route.

There are fears the blaze will seriously hit California's multi-million dollar agricultural industry.

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Media captionDrivers filmed the flames from their cars near Bel Air

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