A massive fire in Santa Barbara, California has forced thousands of people to flee their homes. Up to 5,000 inhabitants were forced to evacuate their houses before the fire changed its course and veered off towards an unpopulated area of Santa Barabara, according to U.S Forest Service spokesperson Andrew Madsen.
Though the fire is still raging, no homes were burned and Madsen stated that by the evening, it was approximately five per cent contained. However, Madsen stated that the fire did sweep through a forest service outpost. It also did extensive damage to a building at the outpost and the fire partially burned a forest service vehicle.
Firefighters were busy elsewhere, attempting to get the inferno under control.
According to Madsen, “It ran right through our compound.”
As night fell, four water tanker aircraft and two helicopters that had been enlisted to combat the blaze in the afternoon were grounded, fire officials stated.
An evacuation center was set up by the American Red Cross . Also, another center was set up for horses that were temporarily displaced by the fire. They were then transported to area stables until the blaze got under control. Madsen said he doubted that the centers would see much use, because it looked as if area residents would be able to return home by late Monday.
Though winds were expected to worsen somewhat during the night, firefighters said with the rising humidity and falling temperatures, they may get help from the weather.
The fire forced Paradise Road to close. It is a main road in the popular recreation area, and it runs up a canyon dotted with campsites.
The blaze appeared to have started at one of the campsites. Santa Barbara County and the U.S. Forest Service, as well as fFirefighters from several cities, were battling the fire.
A giant plume of smoke was reported by witnesses reported rising over the mountains and blanketing Santa Barbara. Health officials there were urging residents to stay inside due to the poor air quality.
According to resident Michael Devlin, 43, “The sky was completely red, and you could just see red sunlight coming through. It’s pretty scary.”
Continuing, Devlin stated: “I’ve got my little dog, and he’s ready if I need to pack him to leave.”
Written by: Douglas Cobb