Winds fuel California wildfire

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A raging California wildfire on Saturday became the state’s third-largest on record, with more devastation possible from resurgence of the harsh winds that have fuelled the deadly blaze since the beginning of December.

The so-called Thomas Fire has destroyed more than 1000 structures, including about 750 homes, in Southern California coastal communities since erupting on December 4, the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a statement.

The cause of the blaze is not yet known.

Authorities described the current conditions, including returning winds and extremely low humidity, causing a “very hazardous fire fight.”

Coastal Santa Barbara and more sparsely-populated inland areas were of special concern, they said.

Mandatory evacuations were in place in several Santa Barbara County communities, including Carpinteria and Montecito, and parts of Ventura County.

An evacuation order for the city of Ventura, which was hit hard in the first days of the fire, was lifted on Saturday morning.

The cost of fighting the blaze has already reached 104 million dollars, with more than 8 000 fire fighters working around the clock, and helicopters and airplanes dropping retardant on the flames.

Five of 20 most destructive fires in recorded history ravaged the state in 2017, according to Cal Fire.