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Latest: Powerful winds raise fire risk as crews battle blaze

Last Updated Dec 17, 2017 at 11:20 pm PDT

In this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department,fire engines provide structure protection at the historic San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. Santa Barbara County has issued new evacuation orders as a huge wildfire bears down on Montecito and other communities. The Office of Emergency Services announced the orders Saturday as Santa Ana winds pushed the fire close to the community. Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The Latest on wildfires burning in Southern California (all times local):

2:25 p.m.

While crews got a break from slightly calmer winds on the lines of the enormous blaze threatening Santa Barbara County, much of the rest of Southern California was buffeted by powerful gusts that increased the wildfire risk across the region.

The National Weather Service forecast red flag conditions for extreme fire danger through Sunday evening for Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

Trees came down after wind gusts topped 70 mph (113 kph) in mountain areas and 50 mph (80 kph) along the coast.

With winds threatening to bring down power lines and spark more wildfires, Southern California Edison is considering turning off electricity to some parts of Malibu. Utility spokesman Paul Griffo says the coastal city is particularly vulnerable if strong Santa Ana winds continue to batter the area.

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10:35 a.m.

A five-county funeral procession has begun for a firefighter killed while battling the colossal wildfire that’s still threatening homes in Southern California.

An autopsy found Cory Iverson died from burns and smoke inhalation.

Firefighters and police stood at attention as Iverson’s body left the medical examiner’s office in Ventura County shortly after 10 a.m. Sunday. The procession will wind through Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties. Iverson’s body is bound for a funeral home in San Diego, where the 32-year-old was stationed.

The state fire engineer was killed Thursday at the so-called Thomas fire. The blaze is also blamed for the death of a 70-year-old woman who died in a car crash on an evacuation route.

The fire has burned more than 700 homes and currently threatens communities in Santa Barbara County.

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8:30 a.m.

One of the largest wildfires in California history is now 40 per cent contained but flames still threaten coastal communities as dry, gusty winds are predicted to continue.

Winds calmed overnight but seaside communities in Santa Barbara counties were warned again Sunday that they’re still at risk if unpredictable gusts whip up once more.

Some 8,000 firefighters are deployed to the so-called Thomas Fire, which has burned for nearly two weeks and still threatens 18,000 homes. Parts of the city of Santa Barbara and the hillside enclaves of Montecito and Carpinteria remain under evacuation orders. However in neighbouring Ventura County, where the fire started, officials lifted some evacuation orders early Sunday.

A funeral procession is planned Sunday for Cory Iverson, the 32-year-old firefighter killed Thursday while battling the flames.