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Dec 16, 12:27 AM EST

Army of firefighters takes on still-growing California fire

AP Photo
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) -- The fourth-largest wildfire in California history continues to grow and threaten thousands of homes despite armies of fire crews and fleets of bulldozers and aircraft.

The blaze northwest of Los Angeles grew by 3,000 acres overnight and although Santa Ana winds eased on Friday, they are expected to return with a vengeance over the weekend. And the fire is so large that winds on one end may be gustier than those on the other side.

The 11-day-old Thomas fire surging through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties had devoured some 400 square miles of brush and timber and burned more than 1,000 buildings, including well over 750 homes.

It also claimed the life of a firefighter Thursday.

Another 18,000 buildings are still in jeopardy, including mansions in the wealthy enclave of Montecito.

The fire is only 35 percent surrounded despite efforts by some 8,000 firefighters, 32 helicopters and 78 bulldozers.

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