Up to 100 homes burned in California blaze

Other News Materials 14 November 2008 18:20 (UTC +04:00)

A brush fire roared through the canyons of Santa Barbara County late Thursday, forcing residents in the town of Montecito to evacuate as flames engulfed multimillion-dollar homes and more modest ranch-style houses, reported CNN.

As many as 100 homes had burned, the city of Santa Barbara reported on its Web site.

Large homes continued to burn Friday morning.

High winds fanned the fire, which started about 6:30 p.m. northwest of Los Angeles.

The fire threatened roughly 1,000 homes, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

Winds of 50 mph to 70 mph were forecast through Saturday.

Four people have been injured, according to The Associated Press, including two taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with substantial burns, Janet O'Neil, the hospital's director of public affairs, said.

Two firefighters suffered smoke inhalation, AP reported.

Video from CNN affiliate KCAL-TV of Los Angeles showed numerous structures gutted or burning. 

"You can just hear the explosions ... of vehicles, homes," Michaelo Rosso told KCAL as he prepared to leave his home in the area. "It sounds like the Fourth of July out here."

"It looked like lava coming down a volcano," resident Leslie Hollis Lopez told AP.

"We drove through tunnels of thick gray smoke," CNN's Paul Vercammen said. "Smoldering embers are floating everywhere. ... There's orange glows of similar burn areas all around us."

The flames roared onto the campus of Westmont College in Santa Barbara, forcing students and staff to take cover in the school gym.

Several buildings, including dormitories, the school's physics building and more than a dozen homes in Westmont's faculty housing area, have been lost or "significantly damaged" by the fire, the school said in a statement on its Web site.

College officials said they hope to evacuate to a Red Cross shelter as conditions permit.

The fire covered more than 2,000 acres by Friday morning, AP reported, citing a Santa Barbara County spokeswoman. More than 100 firefighters were battling the brush fire.

Authorities ordered evacuations between Mountain Drive and Highway 192 and between Cold Springs and Sycamore Canyon Road in the Montecito area of Santa Barbara County.

Montecito, which has multimillion-dollar homes with ocean views, has long attracted celebrities, The Associated Press reported. Talk show host Oprah Winfrey owns a 42-acre estate there, and the landmark Montecito Inn was built in the 1920s by Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle, AP reported.