The largest wildfire on record in California was largely tamed by Sunday as Ventura residents raced around for last-minute holiday shopping and for Christmas Eve church services.
But the devastation was never far from the thoughts of many. Hundreds of people fled their homes as the Thomas fire swept into the city Dec. 4. The blaze continued to threaten communities from Ventura to Montecito last week, when the last of the evacuation centers finally closed.
The fire is 86% contained but is not expected to be fully contained until Jan. 7, officials said. The blaze has burned 281,620 acres, destroyed 1,063 structures, and resulted in two deaths, including that of a firefighter.
Roughly 1,600 firefighters remain on the line.
At Ventura’s Mission Church on Sunday, the fire remained a subject of discussion. The church was one of many institutions that helped raise money and supplies for those who lost their homes or were evacuated.
The church collected tens of thousands of dollars for gift cards. It received so many donations of toiletries, clothing, food and water that church officials said the lobby began to resemble a shopping center.
“We wanted to be a part of the solution,” said church member Jen Oakes.
Low winds continued to help firefighters make progress against the Thomas fire on Sunday, and favorable weather should provide further relief over the Christmas holiday.
Winds are expected to stay below 15 mph until Tuesday night, said Dave Bruno, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
“It looks really good, as far as winds go,” he said. There also is no rain forecast for the days ahead.
7:45 p.m.: This article was updated with new information on fire containment and acres burned.
This article was originally published at 5:55 p.m.