Deadly California wildfire continues to grow

Flames from a backfiring operation rise behind a home in Santa Barbara. The so-called Thomas Fire, the fourth-largest in California history, continued to surge west, endangering thousands of homes, as forecasts called for a renewal of gusty winds. (AP)
Updated 16 December 2017
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Deadly California wildfire continues to grow

LOS ANGELES: A California wildfire was close on Saturday to becoming the state’s third largest blaze on record, with more devastation possible from a resurgence of the harsh winds that have fueled the deadly fire’s growth.
The so-called Thomas Fire has destroyed more than 1,000 structures, including about 750 homes, in coastal communities in Southern California since erupting on December 4, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a statement.
It has cost $97 million to fight the 256,000-acre blaze, with thousands of firefighters contending with it around the clock and helicopters and airplanes being used to drop retardant on the flames.
The vast landscape charred by the blaze, which is centered less than 100 miles (161 km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles, is approaching the 257,314 acres (104,131 hectares) destroyed by California’s Rim Fire in 2013. The Rim Fire is the third-largest blaze on record in the state.
The Thomas Fire is only 35 percent contained and it threatens 18,000 structures, officials said, including some in the wealthy enclave of Montecito just outside the city of Santa Barbara. The blaze is chewing up tall grass and brush as it expands along the scenic Pacific Coast.
The hot Santa Ana winds that have helped the fire grow, at times sending embers far ahead of its main flank, were forecast to remain strong through Saturday evening in the Santa Barbara County mountains, the National Weather Service warned. Gusts of up to 40 miles per hour (64 km/h) were expected.
From Saturday night through Sunday evening, the winds could lash neighboring Ventura County, the Weather Service said. That is where the Thomas Fire first began due to unknown causes, and where it was still burning.
Cal Fire engineer Cory Iverson, 32, died on Thursday while battling the flames near the Ventura County community of Fillmore. Fire officials said Iverson, the blaze’s first fatality, left behind a pregnant wife and 2-year-old daughter.
The Thomas Fire was one of several major blazes that broke out in Southern California this month, although the others have been contained.
The blazes forced many schools to close for days, shut roads and drove hundreds of thousands from their homes. The fires were also responsible for poor air quality throughout Southern California.


10 killed in car bomb attack in southern Afghanistan

Updated 56 sec ago

10 killed in car bomb attack in southern Afghanistan

  • The attack also hit the hospital in the city
  • Taliban said the attack was against the National Directorate of Security

KABUL: A car bomb attack targeting an intelligence services building in the southern Afghan city of Qalat on Thursday left at least 10 people dead and 85 wounded, the governor of Zabul province told AFP.
“This morning a car bomb targeted the NDS in Qalat of Zabul. The regional hospital of Zabul was also located there and has been destroyed in the attack,” said Rahmatullah Yarmal.
The bombing was later claimed by a Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, who said the attack was against the National Directorate of Security.
The blast in Zabul is just the latest in a string of deadly Taliban bombings across the country as violence intensifies before the end of the summer fighting season.
The increase in fighting also comes after US President Donald Trump earlier this month abruptly ended talks with the Taliban following nearly a year of seeking a deal that would have allowed the US to begin withdrawing troops from its longest war.
Trump’s declaration that the talks were “dead” spurred the Taliban to declare last week that the only other option was more fighting, sparking fears of more attacks ahead of presidential elections at the end of the month.
A BBC investigation released on Monday claimed that 74 people were killed every day on average in August, with 611 incidents resulting in 2,307 deaths.