As of Friday evening, the Thomas Fire has burned 273,400 acres, making it the largest fire in California history. The Thomas Fire took its spot on top as a gentle giant, not a raging beast, as the fire has slowed.
At the same time, the worst appears to be over for the massive wildfire that plagued a wide swath of the Southern California coast for 2½ weeks.
The last mandatory evacuation orders for the fire were called off by Thursday. At its peak, the fire drove about 100,000 people from their homes in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Only a remote wilderness valley remained under a voluntary evacuation warning.
The blaze remained 65 percent contained and had burned just over 427 square miles. It overtook the size of the record holder, a blaze that struck San Diego County in 2003.
Authorities said the fire is moving slowly in wilderness on its north flank but there was minimal activity elsewhere.
The passage of a cold front through the area late in the week produced strong winds in the Montecito area near Santa Barbara but caused no remarkable fire behavior, officials said. Use of controlled burns to clear brush were temporarily hampered by a spike in humidity and a light frosting of snow dusted the tops of some ridges.
The Thomas Fire, which began Dec. 4, is responsible for two deaths and has destroyed at least 750 homes.
Days of fierce, often erratic gusts combined with extremely dry weather pushed the blaze with incredible speed as it moved through Ventura County's agricultural Santa Clara Valley, into the city of Ventura and then moved northwestward, threatening the coastal communities of Santa Barbara County.