Fire destroys over 100 luxury homes near Santa Barbara

November 15th, 2008 - 12:56 am ICT by IANS  

Los Angeles, Nov 14 (DPA) Firefighters battled a raging wildfire near the celebrity hideaway of Montecito near Santa Barbara Friday after more than 100 houses were destroyed by the wind-driven flames overnight.The fire injured 13 people and forced residents from over 5,400 homes to evacuate. Several college buildings were also destroyed in the inferno, including a dormitory and several laboratories. It was the worst fire of the current season in terms of property damage.

The fire broke out Thursday evening and had burned around 1,000 hectares by Friday morning. About 500 firefighters were battling the blaze, with more expected from neighbouring counties and throughout the state, along with fire engines, nine helicopters and 10 air tankers, said Terri Nisich, Santa Barbara county’s assistant executive officer.

“We hope today that we can really get a handle on it with the air support coming in and the weather,” she said at a press conference.

Winds were expected to subside to around 20 kmph after gusting as high as 100 kmph overnight.

Montecito is home to stars such as Oprah Winfrey and Rob Lowe. It is situated in the coastal mountains just outside Santa Barbara, about 145 km northeast of Los Angeles.

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