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May 7, 2009
Fierce winds fuel Southern California wildfires
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) -- Fierce winds blew a wildfire into Southern California homes Wednesday, 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, but the number could not immediately be determined because of 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. The fire had burned 200 acres, or about one-third of a square mile, by midday when winds were calm, then was whipped by up to 50 mph gusts. By sunset, it was 500 acres -- about three-fourths of a square mile -- and winds were down to 25 mph, said Santa Barbara County fire Capt. David Sadecki. More than 8,000 people were evacuated, according to a proclamation Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued in declaring a state of emergency for Santa Barbara County. He asked federal authorities to issue an assistance grant to ensure financial resources are available for firefighting. (28 images)

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Glenn Griffith stands by his car with his dogs after fleeing his house which he said burned from the Jesusita Fire in Santa Barbara, Calif. on Wednesday, May 6. Fierce winds blew a wildfire into Southern California homes Wednesday, forcing residents to flee as columns of smoke rose from a scenic coastal enclave. LA Daily News / Michael Owen Baker


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A United States Forest Service firefighter stands ready as the Jesusita fire burns in the hills of Santa Barbara, Calif. on Wednesday, May 6. AP / Dan Steinberg



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Fierce winds blow a wildfire into Southern California homes Wednesday, May 6, forcing thousands of people to flee and detroying mansions and humble homes. AP / John Lazar



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Salinas Fire Department firefighters stand watch over a home as it burns in Santa Barbara, Calif. on Wednesday, May 6. AP / Dan Steinberg



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California wildfires burn structures and hillsides in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Wednesday, May 6. AP / John Lazar



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A fire truck drives through a neighborhood as California wildfires burn structures and hillsides in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Wednesday, May 6. AP / John Lazar



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A fire surveillance aircraft makes it's way over homes as California wildfires burn structures and hillsides in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Wednesday, May 6. AP / John Lazar



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A helicopter dumps water onto flames as houses burn and others are threatened by flames during the Jesusita Fire in the hills of Santa Barbara, May 6. A wind-driven wildfire destroyed homes and forced hundreds of residents to flee in the California coastal town. Santa Barbara County Fire officials said at least one person had been injured in the blaze, while around 2,000 people were ordered to evacuate after a fire which began on Monday exploded into life. AFP / Getty Images / Mark Ralston



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Houses burn and are others are threatened by flames during the Jesusita Fire in the hills of Santa Barbara, May 6. AFP / Getty Images / Mark Ralston



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A large smoke cloud shrouds the Santa Barbara Mission building as residents evacuate during the Jesusita Fire in the hills of Santa Barbara, May 6. AFP / Getty Images / Mark Ralston



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A large smoke cloud shrouds the Santa Barbara Mission building as residents evacuate during the Jesusita Fire in the hills of Santa Barbara, May 6. AFP / Getty Images / Mark Ralston



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Houses burn and are others are threatened by flames during the Jesusita Fire in the hills of Santa Barbara, May 6. AFP / Getty Images / Mark Ralston



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Fire engines are deployed during the Jesusita Fire in the hills of Santa Barbara, May 6.AFP / Getty Images / Mark Ralston



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Local residents Steve Wells, left, and Scott Douglas pack their cars after police issued a mandatory evacuation order during the Jesusita Fire in the hills of Santa Barbara, May 6.AFP / Getty Images / Mark Ralston



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Local residents watch as houses burn and others are threatened by flames during the Jesusita Fire in the hills of Santa Barbara, May 6. AFP / Getty Images / Mark Ralston



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Police set up a roadblock outside the Santa Barbara Mission building as residents evacuate during the Jesusita Fire in the hills of Santa Barbara, May 6. AFP / Getty Images / Mark Ralston



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A man walks on the beach as a wildfire rages in the hills of Santa Barbara, Calif. on Tuesday, May 5. AP / Dan Steinberg



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A plane douses the hillside above Mission Canyon in Santa Barbara, Calif. Wednesday, May 6. A stalled wildfire roared back to life Wednesday as gusting winds swooped down from mountains behind the city, pushing flames toward neighborhoods below and sending a plume of smoke out to sea. Santa Barbara News-Press / Mike Eliason



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The Jesusita fire burns in the foothills above Santa Barbara Tuesday May 5. Southern California authorities said early Wednesday the wildfire is threatening 2,000 Santa Barbara homes and has grown to 400 acres. AP / Keith Cullom



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Santa Barbara resident Bill Yule watches as a wildfire burns in the hills of Santa Barbara, Calif. on Tuesday, May 5. AP / Dan Steinberg



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Resident Christopher Burns walks down Tunnel Road towards his home as a wind-driven wildfire burns in hills of Santa Barbara, Calif. on Tuesday, May 5. AP / Dan Steinberg



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A firefighter looks on as a helicopter drops water on a burning home on El Cielito Road in Santa Barbara, Calif. on Wednesday, May 6. AP / Dan Steinberg



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Helicopter refill with water from a reservoir in between hillsides as California wildfires burn structures and hillsides in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Wednesday, May 6. AP / John Lazar



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Fire crews drive through a neighborhood as California wildfires burn structures and hillsides in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Wednesday, May 6. AP / John Lazar



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Santa Monica Fire Department Battalion Chief Jose Torres watches as a wildfire flares up in the hills Santa Barbara, Calif. on Wednesday, May 6. LA Daily News / Michael Owen Baker



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A homes stands threatened by a wildfire in the hills above Santa Barbara, Calif. Wednesday, May 6. Fierce winds blew a wildfire into Southern California homes Wednesday, forcing residents to flee as columns of smoke rose from a scenic coastal enclave. Los Angeles Times / Lawrence K. Ho



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A home burns in Santa Barbara, Calif. on Wednesday, May 6. Fierce winds blew a wildfire into Southern California homes Wednesday, forcing residents to flee as columns of smoke rose from a scenic coastal enclave. AP / Dan Steinberg



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Firefighters spray water on a burning home in Santa Barbara, Calif. on Wednesday, May 6. A fast moving brush fire named the Jesusita fire flared up Wednesday afternoon as strong "Sundowner" winds pushed the fire towards the city of Santa Barbara, burning numerous homes. AP / Dan Steinberg



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