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Massive Thomas Brush Fire On South Coast Grows To 242,000 Acres; Containment at 30%

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(Ventura County Fire Department photo)
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A converted DC-10 jetliner makes a fire retardant drop on the Thomas Fire near Montecito

The Thomas brush fire has now charred 242,000 acres of land in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and remains at 30% containment Thursday morning.

Firefighters say they are focused on three active parts of the fire, which include the mountains above Montecito and Santa Barbara, the Matilija wilderness area, and the Sespe wilderness area.

The fire appears to be burning northwest, out of the Montecito area and into wilderness areas to the northwest.  Fire commanders say their first choice is to take on the blaze directly when possible, or to let it burn to them in rugged areas, but as a last resort they are considering the use of more back burns to protect homes by removing fuel.

The Santa Barbara County end of the fire has gotten a break weather-wise for the last few days, with no wind.  But, there's a Red Flag Warning in effect for Ventura and Los Angeles counties through 10 a.m. Friday, with gusty wind and high afternoon temperatures in the weather forecast.

970 structures have been lost, and 18,000 are considered to be threatened by the blaze which began December 4th off of Highway 150 near Santa Paula.