Fire threatens homes in Santa Barbara, evacuations ordered

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — A brushfire whipped by gusts threatened homes and commercial buildings in coastal California late Thursday night, authorities said.

The blaze erupted around 9 pm in a westside neighborhood of Santa Barbara, about 78 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The fire had burned 20 acres of brush and was spreading rapidly, fire officials said.

One home was damaged and at least 50 homes and commercial buildings, including several television stations, were threatened in an area known locally as TV Hill, said Mike Eliason, spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Winds of 10 mph to 20 mph (16 kph to 32 kph), with some gusts to 50 mph (80 kph), were pushing flames uphill through a mixture of brush, grass and palm trees.

“The fire started on a very steep slope so it’s topography-driven as well as wind-driven,” Eliason said.

However, the blaze could run out of fuel when it reached the top of the hill, which led into a densely populated residential area that firefighters were prepared to defend, Eliason said.

No injuries were reported and there was no immediate word on what sparked the blaze.

KEYT-TV said the fire burned below the station newsroom, which was evacuated.

“I was watching the television and all of a sudden ashes are flying up in the air,” Steve Belling, who lives in the area, told the station.

He said a “really, really bad wind” swept flames in the direction of the back of his house and a neighbor’s house but firefighters were battling the blaze.

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