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Five Weeks On, Thomas Fire Reaches Full Containment

VENTURA (CBSLA/AP) – About five weeks after it broke out, firefighters have finally contained the largest fire in California history.

The U.S. Forest Service reported Friday that the Thomas Fire that scorched Ventura and Santa Barbara counties is now 100 percent contained.

The 281,893-acre fire which broke out Dec. 4 in Santa Paula forced thousands of people to evacuate and destroyed a staggering 1,063 structures -- including more than 750 homes – and damaged another 280 more. Firefighting costs topped at least $174 million.

The cause remains under investigation.

Following a two-day rainstorm this week, the fire also set the stage for Tuesday's devastating mudslides in the Santa Barbara County enclave of Montecito, which killed at least 17 people and injured 28 more. Five people remain missing.

Meanwhile, the Thomas Fire burn area in the Los Padres National Forest remains closed due to the risk of debris flows, the USFS reported Friday.

"This order includes trails within the burned area," USFS said in a news release. "Please adhere to the closure order and stay out of the forest until Los Padres National Forest deems it safe for the public to reenter the area."

Days of fierce, often erratic Santa Ana 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, including Carpinteria and Montecito.

The fire is responsible for two deaths. San Diego CAL Fire engineer Cory Iverson, 32, died Dec. 14 of burns and smoke inhalation while battling the flames. The blaze is also blamed for the Dec. 6 death of a 70-year-old woman who died in a car crash on an evacuation route.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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