'Monster' California fire bears down on Santa Barbara

PHOTO: Flames churn towards a large fire break near homes along Gibraltar Road north of Santa Barbara, Calif., Dec. 16, 2017. PlayMike Eliason/Santa Barbara COU/Handout/EPA
WATCH Thomas fire continues to grow in southern California

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.

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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.

PHOTO: A firefighter takes a cell phone picture during a wildfire, Dec. 16, 2017, in Montecito, Calif. Chris Carlson/AP
A firefighter takes a cell phone picture during a wildfire, Dec. 16, 2017, in Montecito, Calif.

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.

PHOTO: Flames churn towards a large fire break near homes along Gibraltar Road north of Santa Barbara, Calif., Dec. 16, 2017. Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara COU/Handout/EPA
Flames churn towards a large fire break near homes along Gibraltar Road north of Santa Barbara, Calif., Dec. 16, 2017.

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."

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.

PHOTO: Firefighters from the Governors Office of Emergency Services monitor the advance of smoke and flames from the Thomas Fire, Dec. 16, 2017 in Montecito, Calif.Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
Firefighters from the Governors Office of Emergency Services monitor the advance of smoke and flames from the Thomas Fire, Dec. 16, 2017 in Montecito, Calif.

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 Virginia 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.

The circumstances that led to his death remains under investigation.

PHOTO: Heavy fire from the Thomas Fire burns around power line towers in Coyote Canyon near Montecito, Calif., Dec. 16, 2017. Gene Blevins/Reuters
Heavy fire from the Thomas Fire burns around power line towers in Coyote Canyon near Montecito, Calif., Dec. 16, 2017.

On Sunday, the fallen firefighter's body was being driven to San Diego County in a procession to reunite him with his five-months pregnant wife, Ashley, and their 2-year-old daughter, Evie.

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.

SLIDESHOW: Photos: Wildfires continue to rage across Southern California

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