Thomas Fire Now at 259,000 Acres

The Thomas Fire expanded to 259,000 acres overnight, making it the third-largest wildfire in California's history. That's forced new evacuation orders for residents in Santa Barbara County.

Sundowner winds pushing south from the mountains down to the coast are helping to feed the massive Thomas fire and drive it to the coast. The National Weather Service says wind gusts could approach 55 mph, making conditions difficult for fire crews who have been working on the Thomas Fire since Dec. 3rd. 

Cal Fire officials say the blaze is currently 40 percent contained and it will likely take weeks before they'll be able to reach full containment. More than 1,000 buildings have been destroyed or damaged and another 18,000 buildings remain in jeopardy including some in the wealthy enclave of Montecito near Santa Barbara County. 

One firefighter lost his life while battling the blaze on the eastern flank in canyons near Fillmore on Thursday. No details have been released about the death of the 32-year-old from San Diego. 

About 8,300 firefighters from agencies around the nation battle the fire. 

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