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Wildfire destroys homes near Santa Barbara

world Updated: Nov 14, 2008 11:06 IST
Wildfire destroys homes near Santa Barbara

A brush fire destroyed an unknown number of homes on Thursday in the wealthy enclave of Montecito, forcing residents to evacuate what has long been a hideaway for the rich and famous.

It was not immediately clear if anyone was injured or exactly how many homes had burned in the community of 10,000. The fire broke out shortly before 6 p.m. in the Cold Springs area of Montecito, and strong winds spread flames in the foothills five miles (eight kilometers) south of Santa Barbara. Gusts as high as 70 mph (113 kph) were recorded, according to the National Weather Service.

Several fire departments were battling the flames as thick plumes of smoke hovered overhead. Evacuations were ordered for parts of the area, which one resident described as deserted.

"You can just hear the explosions ... of vehicles, homes," Michaelo Rosso told KCAL-TV as he prepared to leave his home. "It sounds like the 4th of July out here."

Montecito, which has multimillion-dollar homes with ocean views, has long attracted celebrities. Talk show host Oprah Winfrey owns a 42-acre (17-hectare) estate there, and the landmark Montecito Inn was built in the 1920s by film stars Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle.