Firefighter killed in massive California blaze

The Thomas Fire has blackened almost 100,000 hectares since it broke out ten days ago, making it the fourth-largest blaze in California's history. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A firefighter was killed in one of the largest blazes in California's history, officials said Thursday (Dec 14), as emergency services spent another day struggling to contain infernos across the tinder-dry state.

San Diego-based Cal Fire engineer Cory Iverson died fighting the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, according to Cal Fire chief Ken Pimlott, who gave no further details on the incident.

"I am very saddened to report that a firefighter fatality has occurred on the Thomas incident. Please join me in keeping our fallen firefighter and his loved ones in your prayers," he tweeted.

The Thomas Fire has blackened almost 250,000 acres (100,000 ha) since it broke out ten days ago, Cal Fire said, making it the fourth-largest blaze in the state's history.

Thousands have had to evacuate and almost 1,000 buildings have been razed, most of them single-family houses, while another 18,000 are still seen as under threat.

The only other victim so far is a 70-year-old woman who was in an accident as she fled in her car, and the blaze was considered 30 per cent contained by Thursday, according to Cal Fire.

California's most devastating blaze remains the 2003's Cedar Fire, which scorched 270,000 acres and destroyed almost 3,000 buildings.

This year is the worst on record for wildfire devastation, with more than 40 deaths and around 9,000 structures destroyed, following fires that ravaged the Napa and Sonoma wine region in the fall.

California Governor Jerry Brown told AFP on Tuesday wildfires ravaging his state should serve as a warning for other parts of the world threatened by climate change.

"The important fact is that these fires are going to become a very frequent occurrence, that's what the science is telling us," he said at the One Planet Summit in Paris, two years to the day after 195 nations signed an agreement to rein in global warming.

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