A wind-fanned wildfire spread across 500 acres in Santa Barbara County, California, early Thursday, forcing 13,000 residents to evacuate and destroying at least 20 homes.
The fire, strengthened by high temperatures and low humidity, engulfed mansions in the coastal community’s foothills. The blaze, which started Tuesday, came six months after the Tea Fire destroyed about 200 homes in the Santa Barbara area. The current fire has forced about 13,000 people to evacuate, said Derek Johnson, a spokesman for Santa Barbara County Fire Department. Are you there Send photos, videos Though there was no official count on homes destroyed early Thursday, one firefighter said he saw 20 homes scorched. Eight firefighters were injured and the cause of the blaze has not been determined, emergency officials said. “The fire is moving very, very rapidly,” Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. David Sadecki said Wednesday. “This is an uncontrolled wildfire.” Watch scenes from the fire » Firefighters had hoped that calmer winds earlier Wednesday would help them get the blaze under control. But the winds kicked back up later, with reported gusts as high as 60 mph, Sadecki said. On top of that, temperatures as high as 102 degrees and low humidity were helping the fire along, he said.
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About 2,000 homes had been evacuated by Wednesday evening, Sadecki said. Watch Gov. Schwarzenegger urge vigilance » Firefighting helicopters, which had been used to dump water, were grounded late Wednesday because of the winds. Also Wednesday, wildfires were burning in Arizona near the Mexican border.
One blaze covered about 4,000 acres near the city of Sierra Vista. It had destroyed three homes and sent an area resident to the hospital with third-degree burns, according to the National Forest Service. Three other smaller fires in the area were largely or completely contained, fire officials said.