California wire crews make progress ahead of wind increase

In this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, pockets of unburned vegetation flare up off Bella Vista Dr. in Montecito, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. After announcing increased containment on the Thomas fire, one of the biggest wildfires in California history, officials Wednesday warned that communities remain at risk and the threat could increase as unpredictable winds whip up again. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — As containment inched up on one of the largest wildfires in California history, officials warned Thursday that the battle was far from over as hot, gusty winds were expected to fan flames again.

The blaze northwest of Los Angeles was about a third contained and authorities said the risk to the inland agricultural city of Fillmore was diminishing. But coastal enclaves to the west remained under threat as crews protected hillside homes in Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria.

The National Weather Service said extreme fire danger conditions could last through the weekend due to lack of moisture along with a likely increase in wind speeds. Gusts were expected to top 35 mph (56 kph) by midday Thursday.

Firefighters made progress Wednesday on corralling the so-called Thomas Fire, which continued to spread mostly into national forest land.

Since the blaze broke out on Dec. 4, it has burned more than 372 square miles (965 square kilometers) and destroyed 921 buildings — including at least 700 homes. Flames threaten some 18,000 buildings and prompted evacuations of about 100,000 people. Covering as much ground as the city of San Diego, it is the fifth-largest wildfire in California history.

To the south in San Diego County, firefighters came very close to containing another major wildfire a week after it broke out.

That fire burned down 157 structures, most in its destructive first hours. It also killed 46 race horses at a training center, and left one of their trainers with serious burns.

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