Friday, November 14, 2008

Update on Tea fire near Montecito

Update @ 12:30 p.m. PT

Westmont college was providing updates on their regular website even after the electricity was cut off by using natural gas-powered generators, but after the gas line was turned off they operated for a few hours on UPS (batteries) before they had to shut down. Now they have a temporary web site set up (probably off campus?) with current updates HERE.

This is their latest entry:
8:00 am: There are no active fires on campus, no injuries, and everyone is safe.

Wesmont has 326 students remaining in the Gym; those students with transportation have been released from campus because it is safe for them to travel on area roads.

Westmont has lost eight structures, four buildings in Clark halls (F,G,M,S), the physics building, the old math building and the two quonset huts. The later three structures were scheduled for demolition soon.

Fourteen faculty homes in Las Barrancas have burned; there is damage to trees, and wooded areas on campus, but much of the formal gardens remains intact.
How to get more information:

Information for local residents about evacuations, road closures, and a phone number to call, (805) 681-5197, can be found at the Santa Barbara County web site.

Update @ 9:15 a.m. PT

Information from a press conference that just occurred:
  • The winds were 60 mph when the fire started at 6 p.m. near the Tea House yesterday.
  • It started in the city of Montecito, but now is managed under a Unified Command by Commanders from Montecito, U.S. Forest Service, Santa Barbara County, and Santa Barbara City.
  • The current strategy is to hook the fire on the east and west flanks and drive it up into the national forest, protecting the urban area. The coast in that area runs east and west.
  • There have been two serious burn injuries. (Fox 11 had an interview with a doctor from a burn center who reported that a firefighter from LA City with serious burns was treated and released from his facility.)
  • A CalFire incident management team will assume command at 6 p.m. today.
Los Angeles TV Channel 4 reported that a dozen faculty homes at Westmont College burned.


As the sun comes up over the Tea fire south of Santa Barbara, California near Montecito it is becoming evident that 2,500 1,500 acres and at least 100 homes have burned. There are reports that 13 people have been injured and are being treated in hospitals, 10 of them with smoke inhalation, but 3 have been transported to burn centers in the Los Angeles area.

A map of the Tea fire can be found at our earlier post. Two maps are available and they should be current if you refresh your browser. The maps also show the evacuation areas.

Photo courtesy of TC on flickr

The Tea fire was pushed by winds that are unique to the Santa Barbara area. Called Sundowner winds, they often begin in the late afternoon or early evening and replace the usual cool, moist coastal air with with a hot, dry wind. These winds backed off overnight and are expected to blow at about 10-15 mph today with temperatures in the mid-80s. Red flag warnings are in effect for some areas of southern California with wind gusts up to 60-70 mph possible in the mountain areas of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties through Saturday.

About 700 firefighters will be working the fire today, and they expect to have help from 9 helicopters and 10 air tankers, including the DC-10 air tanker. Last night three night-flying helicopters made water drops.

Several buildings burned on the 135-acre campus of Westmont College, a private religious college, but no injuries were reported as 800 students took refuge in the gymnasium. The local Fox 11 TV station this morning reported that the physics building, the psychology building, and a couple of dorms burned.

The Montecito area has one of the highest concentrations of very expensive homes in the world and many celebrities have residences there, including Steve Martin, Steven Spielburg, Kevin Costner, Kirk Douglas, Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe, and Ellen Degeneres.


Anonymous said...

Who cares about the "celebs" homes. They can afford to replace them! What about the regular folks who will be devastated by this catastrophe...Many of them will have nothing left! This is a terrible loss to one of the most beautiful places on earth. I have such fond memories as we just moved back to Colorado after living in Montecito for 2 years.

Anonymous said...

Though I have no "celeb" friends, I lived in Montecito for a long time, and I and my friends, rich and not rich, have suffered the horror of Santa Barbara fires. The loss is devestatating, regardless of status or wealth. My heart goes out to all of the residents today.

Anonymous said...

Have there been any information regarding which homes have been burned? My parents were evacuated and I would like to know if they still have a home.

Bill Gabbert said...

We are very sorry about your situation, and hope that their home is OK, but we are not aware of any specific information available yet about which homes have burned. It might be a while before the authorities have that data.

Bill Gabbert said...

Here is some information posted on the Santa Barbara web site:

"Public Information Call Center
The public may call (805) 681-5197, for updates on the status of the incident. The line will be staffed from 8 a.m. to midnight to provide information as the fire situation changes and the risk to the community subsides."

They may eventually have information about which homes have burned.

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