Strong winds boost California wildfire

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Strong winds were pushing a fierce wildfire above the California coastal city of Santa Barbara closer to populated areas and forced thousands more to flee their homes.

The fire's increasing strength prompted officials to order 6,000 more people to evacuate late last night, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said. That pushed the total number of evacuated residents to about 18,000.

The blaze was approaching homes in the city's more populated, flat area below its steep canyons. Santa Barbara city fire spokesman Gary Pitney said flames jumped a road dividing the hilly terrain from the flatlands below and ignited spot fires in brush surrounding houses.

Pitney said the fire also pushed west across a state highway that is the key thoroughfare between Santa Barbara and wine country to the north.

Officials opened a second evacuation shelter to accommodate 900 additional people. All 190 beds were filled at the first shelter at a high school.

The seasonal wildfires that menace the idyllic city — home to screen stars, former presidents and Oprah Winfrey — roared to life earlier in the year than usual but their ferocity is familiar.

By day's end, state officials said the fire grew to 2,739 acres (1,108 hectares) — roughly 4 square miles (10 square kilometers). Firefighters had been on alert for a predicted return of a "Sundowner" — fierce winds that late in the day can sweep down from the Santa Ynez Mountains towering close behind Santa Barbara.

The benignly named Jesusita Fire was a slumbering day-old brush fire on rugged slopes above the city when a Sundowner hit at mid-afternoon Wednesday, hurling towering flames into homes and spitting embers into more distant neighborhoods.

Some 4,715 homes remained evacuated, and another 12,000 people in 5,200 homes were advised to be ready to leave, according to city and county estimates.

About 2,300 firefighters from many departments were on the lines, aided by aircraft. The fire was just 10 percent contained. Firefighters faced extreme conditions: Much of the fire was burning in rugged, inaccessible areas that are rich with fuel.

Authorities reported 10 firefighters injured, including three who sheltered in a house during a firestorm. They were in good condition at a Los Angeles burn center but two faced surgery. Other injuries ranged from smoke inhalation to ankle sprains.

The city's location on the state's central coast gives it some of the best weather in the world, with temperatures routinely topping out in the 70s (20s Celsius), and views of the Pacific Ocean.

Now with a population of about 90,000, it dates to the Spanish colonial era of California and a Roman Catholic mission established in the 1780s is a major tourist attraction.

But the geography that gives it beauty and a serene atmosphere also brings danger.

In November, a wind-driven fire burned 200 houses in Santa Barbara and Montecito, including the home of actor Christopher Lloyd. Winfrey's estate escaped, along with the home of actor Rob Lowe, among many celebrities who have area residences.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific