Firefighters in California said yesterday that a cool sea breeze came to their rescue during the fifth day of a battle to stop severe wildfires destroying more homes near Santa Barbara, north of Los Angeles. They warned that so-called "Sundowners", fierce local winds that are being blamed for fuelling the inferno which has razed 80 homes already, could return today.
Around 2,300 firefighters have been tackling the blaze since it broke out on Tuesday, forcing California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare a state of emergency, and around 30,000 people to flee their homes – with another 23,000 prepared to go – as it burns along a five-mile front.
"When the air is coming off the ocean the humidity is fairly high and it pushes the fire back away from the community," Santa Barbara County's fire chief, Tom Franklin, said. "But the Sundowner prediction is still there."
The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.