Firefighters have been working to protect coastal communities in Santa Barbara county, but the Thomas Fire has shown no sign of relenting as strong winds continue to propel the blaze. The intense Santa Ana winds are expected to gust to 55 mph (88 kph) overnight, according to the National Weather Service.

It is already the third largest fire in California history, having burned across 269,000 acres and destroyed over 1,000 structures. It expanded across 10,000 acres over night Saturday alone.

Cal Fire, the state's fire emergency agency, estimated the Thomas Fire is only 40 percent contained after burning for nearly two weeks, and said it threatens an additional 18,000 structures. 

"Critical fire weather combined with very high fuel loading, critically low fuel moistures, and single-digit relative humidities will continue to support fire growth on the west, east and north sides of the fire," Cal Fire warned. 

The manmade Cedar Fire is the largest California has ever seen. It burned over 273,000 acres in San Diego County in 2003.

Firefighter Cory Iverson died of burns and smoke inhalation combatting the Thomas Fire on Thursday.

The Santa Barbara Zoo shuttered its doors Sunday due to poor air quality. As a precaution, the zoo sent its critically endangered California Condors to the Los Angeles Zoo along with its Ruppell’s griffon vultures.

Oprah Winfrey, who owns a home in Santa Barbara county said she is "Still praying for our little town. Winds picked up this morning creating a perfect storm of bad for firefighters."

"God bless every firefighter and their families. Fighting three weeks straight. Still going. Imagine their exhaustion! #ThomasFire," the Montecito, California resident wrote on Twitter.

Anadolu Agency