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Dec 18, 8:41 AM EST

The Latest: Calmer winds 'critical' in California firefight


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Latest on California wildfire (all times local):

5:15 a.m.

Crews on the lines of Southern California's enormous wildfire hope to take advantage of a two-day window of calmer winds before potentially dangerous gusts return at mid-week.

The blaze that broke out two weeks ago Monday still threatens thousands of homes northwest of Los Angeles.

Fire spokesman Capt. Rick Crawford says cooler temperatures, slightly higher humidity and light winds forecast for Monday and Tuesday will be "critical" for firefighters hoping to make progress against the Thomas Fire. The hot, gusty winds that caused a huge flare-up and forced more evacuations over the weekend are expected to come back Wednesday.

Evacuation orders remain for swaths of Santa Barbara County, including the hillside communities of Montecito and Summerland.

The 422-square-mile (1,093-sq. kilometer) blaze has destroyed more than 700 homes. It's 45 percent contained.

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