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Local News

Firefighters Close In on Shutting Down Thomas Fire; Containment Rises to 70%

This story was last updated at 8:42 a.m. Sunday.

Firefighters made significant progress Saturday toward full containment of the 19-day-old Thomas Fire.

The fire remained at 273,400 acres, a staggering 427 square miles, but containment rose to 70 percent, according to the Sunday morning report from incident commanders.

(The containment estimate was incorrectly posted as 78 percent Saturday evening due to a typo, according to the U.S. Forest Service.)

“The front country fire perimeter is secure,” according to the report. “Firefighters are building upon previous gains by securing established containment lines adjacent to communities and other infrastructure.

“Mop-up operations along the fire perimeter and active patrol are ongoing.”

Firing operations on the northern flank were completed Friday.

“Smoke seen today near Tule Creek was from a hotspot that flared up well within the interior of the burned area, and it posed no threat to the fire line,” according to the report.

“Some heat remains in the Bear Heaven area. Air support with water drops is being used due to steep, rugged terrain with limited access.”

Personnel assigned to the fire continued to decline, and stood at 1,586 as of Sunday morning.

The latest tally showed that 1,065 structures were destroyed by the fire, and another 280 were damaged.

Two people were killed in the wildfire: Virginia Pesola, 70, of Santa Paula, who died in a car crash while fleeing the flames soon after the fire ignited Dec. 4, and San Diego County firefighter Cory Iverson, 32, of Escondido, who died in the line of duty Dec. 14 near Fillmore.

The life of Iverson was celebrated in a San Diego memorial service Saturday.

Residents and visitors to Santa Barbara and Ventura counties are being warned they may see an increase in wildlife in local communities due to displacement from the blaze.

“Individuals who encounter these displaced animals are encouraged to maintain a safe distance, refrain from feeding them, and if a threat to humans is perceived call 9-1-1,” according to a statement from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife.

All mandatory evacuation orders were lifted Thursday. Ventura County residents on Highway 33 from Rose Valley north to Hartman Ranch in Ojai remain under an evacuation warning due to fire activity in the area.

Full containment is not expected until Jan. 7.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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