California wildfire is now the largest in recorded history

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About two and a half weeks after it ignited, the Thomas Fire has become the largest fire in California's recorded history, fire officials said. Shortly after the fire started December 4, the Thomas fire was burning tens of thousands of acres a day.

As residents return from evacuated areas, the government warned that Santa Barbara and Venture counties may seen an increase in wildlife in local communities.

The huge wildfire that burned hundreds of homes northwest of Los Angeles this month is within 500 acres (202 hectares) of becoming the largest on record in California.

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Prior to the Thomas Fire, the largest blaze on record was the Cedar Fire in San Diego County back in 2003. Easing winds and lower temperatures have allowed workers to contain over 65 percent of the fire, and almost all of the mandatory evacuations in Santa Barbara County and Ventura County have been lifted.

State fire officials said Friday that the Thomas fire has scorched 273,400 acres, or about 427 square miles of coastal foothills and national forest.

On Wednesday, as the fire continued to march north and west, Santa Barbara County fire Capt. David Zaniboni was awed by the speed of its growth. It's now 65 percent contained and all mandatory evacuations have been lifted.

As of Friday, while 18,000 homes and other buildings were technically still at risk, there was little flame showing in previously burned areas and the fire was moving slowly through remote wilderness.