Tea Fire in Santa Barbara County Was Human-Caused

The Santa Barbara-area fire that swept through tony Montecito had burned 1,940 acres by Monday morning and was 80 percent contained.

The cause of all the fires were under investigation, although officials said the Santa Barbara-area was "human caused," said Doug Lannon, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Lannon said the fire started in a Montecito landmark known to be a popular hangout for teenagers. He said it was possible someone was smoking in the brush or started a campfire there. Arson has not been ruled out. Investigators have set up an anonymous tip line in hopes of getting the public's help in finding out who started the fire.

Tuesday night the Los Angeles Times posted a story reporting Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said ten men and women, ranging in age from 18 to 22, had gathered at an abandoned property called the Teahouse late Wednesday night and built a bonfire to warm themselves.  The ten young people all lived locally and attended the same school. He declined to say which one.  Here's the link to the Los Angeles Times report:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-bonfire-montecito19-2008nov19,0,4914192.story

Santa Barbara County communication director William Boyer said 106 homes burned in the city of Santa Barbara and 77 burned in adjacent Montecito. Santa Barbara County communication director William Boyer said 106 homes burned in the city of Santa Barbara and 77 burned in adjacent Montecito.

At least half of the 5,400 evacuees had been allowed to return home by Saturday night.

Check the Montecito Fire Department Web Site for updates on evacuations.

A state of emergency was declared in Santa Barbara County as the wind-driven, out-of-control fire ripped through the wealthy community of Montecito after it started Thursday  night.

The blaze flared up so fast that it caught some terrified residents behind the automatic gates of their mansions.  It started in the foothills of Montecito, just south of Santa Barbara. Fanned by winds between 50 and 70 mph, the fire broke out in the Cold Springs area at about 6 p.m. Thursday.

Santa Barbara County: Tea Fire Evacuation Information | StoryFire Victims See Damage for First Time

A public information call center for the Tea Fire was established at 805-681-5197. Information about emergency services and road closures is available by calling 805-568-3006, or by visiting CountyofSB.org. 

Montecito suffered a major fire in 1977, when more than 200 homes burned. A fire in 1964 burned about 67,000 acres and damaged 150 houses and buildings.

More Photos: Flickr search for "teafire"

KSBY.com: Wildfire out of control in Montecito, burning 70 homes and injuring residents

LATimes.com: Brush fire breaks out in hills above Montecito

KEYT.com: Brushfire Spreading in Santa Barbara Hills

Santa Barbara Independent



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