Wind-driven Blaze Burns Homes In Coastal Calif. Enclave

Thursday, May 7th 2009, 6:32 am
By: News On 6

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) - Thousands of people have had to flee a southern California wildfire fueled by high winds near Santa Barbara.

Huge mansions and humble homes alike have been reduced to rubble. At least 500 acres have burned. All that's left are palm trees swaying over gutted ruins.

Authorities aren't estimating the number of lost structures beneath the thick smoke. Through the darkness, fires can be seen dotting the hillsides.

Gusts have been nearing 50 miles per hour, with sustained winds closer to 25 miles per hour.

The National Weather Service says strong winds are expected through the night. A red flag warning of fire danger is in effect.

Three firefighters received minor to moderate burns and respiratory injuries when their fire engine was overtaken by flames.

A state of emergency has been declared by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and more than 8,000 have been evacuated.

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