‘Monster’ California fire bears down on Santa Barbara

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(ABC News) — The unforgiving Thomas Fire that has for 14 days ravaged Southern California north of Los Angeles this weekend began to bear down on affluent swaths of Santa Barbara and Montecito.

According to the National Weather Service, a red flag warning remained in effect in both the mountains in Santa Barbara County and along the South Coast with humidity dropping to the teens and wind gusts topping 55 mph overnight.

Bone-dry conditions during December with virtually no rain together with shifty Santa Ana winds that hiked up to 65 mph on Saturday, and lush vegetation blanketing the hills has made it tough to put the Thomas Fire out.

The Office of Emergency Services renewed calls for evacuations to those living in the coastal community of Montecito where Oprah Winfrey amongst other luminaries have homes.

On Saturday and overnight the department issued repeated warnings to anybody living in various hotspots or in the path of the flames to “be prepared to leave.”Related Content: Firefighter dies while battling Thomas fire in California

Today the weather has partially relented with winds dying down.

But gusts could kick up at any time throughout Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, elevating risks from the fire.

In Los Angeles County, meteorologists say winds there could exceed 40mph.

Though the Thomas Fire is 40 percent contained, it has burned through 269,000 acres and destroyed 1,009 structures, making it the third-largest blaze in state history.

The fire led to the deaths of 70-year-old Virgina Pesola who perished in a car accident while attempting to evacuate and a 32-year-old firefighter from San Diego, Cory Iverson, who died from burns and smoke inhalation.Related Content: WATCH: Firefighters drive through Southern California wildfires

The circumstances that led to his death remains under investigation.

Santa Barbara County Fire Division Chief Martin Johnson Saturday night described fighting the fire as a battle against a beast.

“It’s a monster,” he said. “We all recognize that.

“But we will kill it,” Johnson said.

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