A total of 5,430 homes were under mandatory evacuation ordersFierce winds blew wildfires into southern Californian homes yesterday, forcing thousands of people to flee as columns of smoke rose from a scenic coastal enclave.
TV news helicopters showed homes ablaze in Santa Barbara, with thick smoke columns that scattered embers over the city and streamed out over the Pacific Ocean.
Huge mansions and humble homes alike were reduced to rubble, leaving palm trees swaying over gutted ruins.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Drew Sugars said 5,430 homes were under mandatory evacuation. The estimated population of those homes was 13,575 people, he said.
Mike Carr, battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said at least one fire engine had been overtaken by flames.