Santa Barbara County is in a state of emergency as an out-of-control fire continues to burn. The fire, which ignited in the dry brush on Tuesday, has destroyed at least 20 homes; its cause remains under investigation.
Santa Barbara County Fire spokesman David Sadecki said the roaring flames are especially difficult to fight due to the seaside community’s “extreme weather,” with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees and winds reaching 50 miles per hour.
Yesterday, police reported that about 2,000 homes had been vacated after a mandatory evacuation order went into effect, covering a distance of about seven square miles from the Santa Ynez foothills to just outside downtown Santa Barbara. Governor Schwarzenegger reported today that the number of evacuated homes has now reached 5,000. Residents have taken refuge at various sites, including a Red Cross shelter in a local high school.
Fire crews from across Southern California have been called on to assist. Eight firefighters have been injured, including three from Ventura County who suffered moderate burns and respiratory injuries after flames overtook them as they defended a house. All three were airlifted to Los Angeles where they received treatment and are in serious but stable condition. Another firefighter has been treated at a Santa Barbara hospital for a head injury.
County spokeswoman Pat Wheatley said there are 884 firefighters battling the blaze, along with six airplanes and five state helicopters dumping fire retardant and water.
The situation remains extremely dangerous as temperatures stay high and strong winds continue to blow.