The death toll related to Tuesday's storm has risen to 17, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office confirmed in Wednesday afternoon's press conference from Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara. In an ongoing effort to provide transportation during the closure, Santa Barbara Airbus continues to operate their LAX shuttle service under a modified schedule to offer travelers a way to and from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
At one point, more than 2,800 firefighters were working to contain the fire.
With some homes still buried up to their roofs, and the remains of large trees and giant boulders throughout the 30 square miles of Montecito affected by the mud slide, it could be weeks before people are allowed back into the area.
Two people, a firefighter and a civilian, died in the fire. About $177 million was spent fighting the fire as of December 24, according to Cal Fire.
Los Padres National Forest officials flew over the scorched land Thursday and determined that it was fully contained. "We would also like to thank the local and surrounding communities for their understanding and support during this time".
After the Thomas Fire, the next-largest wildfire in the state's history occurred in 2003, when the Cedar Fire near San Diego burned through 273,246 acres.
At least five people were killed, including in Montecito where mudflows trapped people in vehicles and their homes.
Usually, vegetation helps absorb the rain as it hits the ground.
"All these hills normally have a protective cover of chaparral", said Tom Fayram, Santa Barbara's deputy director of public works.