Thousands told to evacuate as wildfires spread in California

ASSOCIATED PRESS
GOLETA, Calif.
Published 26.11.2019 22:41
Updated 27.11.2019 14:02
emReuters Photo/em
Reuters Photo

A wildfire that has exploded in size in the California mountains north of Santa Barbara has forced as many as 6,300 people from their homes, but there were no injuries and no homes had been lost, authorities said Tuesday.

An approaching storm offered hope that the flames would be doused overnight.

The blaze has blackened more than 6 square miles (16 square kilometers) with no containment. It was mainly burning through dry, brushy canyons and ridges of the Santa Ynez Mountains.

The evacuations were ordered in populated foothill areas as flames threatened about 2,400 structures, Santa Barbara County fire spokesman Mike Eliason told KEYT-TV.

The fire started Monday in Los Padres National Forest as winds gusted to 30 mph (48 kph).

Miryam Garcia, 21, and her mother, Norma Ramos, 47, fled their home as flames approached.

"I was just kind of praying that it didn't get to our house," Garcia said.

She and her mother stayed overnight with friends and then went to a Red Cross shelter at a community center in Goleta, west of Santa Barbara.

"Overwhelmed, not knowing what to do," Garcia said.

Red Cross official Tony Briggs said 34 people stayed overnight at the shelter, where face masks were being handed out.

It wasn't clear whether the shelter would still be needed on Thanksgiving, but Briggs promised to "do our very best to make this as good as we possibly can."

Firefighters were told the area had not received any rain in 180 days and vegetation was ready to burn.

They were cautioned that roads into the rugged area may be too narrow for their engines, and that many residents had not left.

The National Weather Service said as much as an inch of rain was expected to hit the area by midnight.

The possible arrival of rain also posed hazards, ranging from shifting winds to debris flows from steep mountainsides.

The dangerous cycle of fire and flood is a raw memory for many people in the region.

In January 2018, a downpour on burned slopes just east of Santa Barbara unleashed massive debris flows that devastated Montecito, killing 23 people and destroying homes.

A 1990 wildfire in the same area destroyed more than 400 homes.

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