- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 2, 2018

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) - The Latest on a gigantic wildfire in Southern California (all times local):

6:40 p.m.

President Donald Trump has declared a major disaster in California over a wildfire that destroyed more than 1,000 buildings.

The White House announced Tuesday that the president has granted disaster status, which will help make federal funds available to supplement recovery efforts in the wake of the Thomas Fire that ravaged Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

Gov. Jerry Brown requested the declaration last month.

Firefighting costs for the blaze have approached $200 million. Brown also noted the need to help cover immense costs expected to rebuild homes, deal with economic issues and remove vast amounts of debris.

In a visit to Ventura on Tuesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen said the president’s declaration will help residents rebuild after the fire destroyed more than 700 homes.

The fire - the largest in modern state history - is 92 percent contained.


1:35 p.m.

There’s finally a chance for some rain over the smoldering remnants of the giant Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

Forecasters are expecting at most a tenth of an inch (2.5 millimeters) on Wednesday, and possibly more rain during the weekend or the following week.

Santa Barbara Airport has recorded almost no rain since the start of the water year Oct. 1. Normally, it would have recorded more than 5 inches (127 millimeters) by now.

The fire broke out Dec. 4 in Ventura County and swept into Santa Barbara County, scorching 440 square miles (1,139 square kilometers) before it finally died down. More than 1,000 structures were destroyed and 280 damaged.

Firefighters are monitoring smoldering pockets in wilderness and assessing flood risk in denuded watersheds.

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