More fire crews were called in from around the state to battle the blaze that had swelled to 500 acres and forced the evacuation of more than 13,000 people in this scenic coastal city.
Eight firefighters were injured, at least three seriously, and the number of evacuees could double later in the day.
"We really can't do any containment lines. It's too dangerous," Santa Barbara County fire Capt. David Sadecki said. "We're doing some structure protection, but firefighters can be in a safe location one minute and in a dangerous situation the next."
While the morning was cool and breezy, temperatures were expected to top 100 degrees and winds picking up through the day could gust up to 50 mph. Those were the same conditions that drove the tame blaze into ferocious activity Wednesday afternoon.
"Today is a concern to us," Sadecki said. "It could be a mirror of yesterday."
At least a dozen homes, some of them mansions, were reduced to rubble but authorities had no precise figure. The flames hopscotched across the canyon homes, burning some while sparing others.
About 1,300 firefighters were on the lines including crews from Monterey County and San Diego County, along with prison inmates from the California Department of Corrections. Eight helicopters dropped water through the night and eight fixed-wing aircraft were set to join them after dawn, officials said.