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Fire destroys 100 homes, injures 4 in US town

Fire destroys 100 homes, injures 4 in US town

Firefighters were racing early Friday to push back a wind-whipped wildfire that destroyed at least 100 homes and a college dormitory, injured four people and forced thousands to flee the longtime celebrity hideaway of Montecito.
The fire broke out Thursday evening and spread to about 2,500 acres (1,012 hectares) by early Friday, destroying dozens of luxury homes and parts of a college campus in the foothills of Montecito, just southeast of Santa Barbara.
About 5,400 homes in the upscale community of 14,000 residents were evacuated, and more people could be forced to flee if the fire spreads, said Nicole Koon, a spokeswoman with the Santa Barbara County Executive Office.
"We believe 100 plus homes have been destroyed," Koon said. "It's our best guess at the moment because it's dark. We're not counting as much as trying to protect the homes."
At Westmont College, a Christian liberal arts college nestled amid wooded rolling hills, some 1,000 students were caught off-guard by the rapidly moving flames.
"It came pretty fast," said Tyler Rollema, a 19-year-old sophomore who was eating dinner in the cafeteria when students were told to head to the gym. "We came out and it was just blazing."
Thousands of feet above the flames, footage shot from television helicopters showed what initially looked like a massive campfire with dozens of glowing embers. When cameras zoomed in, however, what appeared to be flaring coals turned out to be houses _ many of them sprawling estates _ gutted by flame. Palm trees were lit like burning matches.
"It looked like lava coming down a volcano," Leslie Hollis Lopez said as she gathered belongings from her house.
About 500 firefighters were trying to stop the flames from marching farther west to dense neighborhoods in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara City Fire spokesman John Ahlman told KABC-TV he spotted about 20 homes burning Thursday night in the city.
Fire officials planned an aggressive attack from the air at daybreak Friday with the help of nine water-dropping helicopters and 10 air tankers, said Terri Nisich, another spokeswoman with the Santa Barbara County Executive Office.
The injured included two firefighters who suffered smoke inhalation and two residents taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with substantial burns, hospital spokeswoman Janet O'Neil said.
The fire was fanned by evening winds known locally as "sundowners," which gusted up to 70 mph (112 kph) from land to sea late Thursday. Around sunset, winds shift from the normal onshore flow of cool, moist sea breezes and push downhill from the Santa Ynez Mountains.


Updated : 2021-10-20 09:01 GMT+08:00