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Santa Barbara Fire (Tea Fire)

Nearly 150 homes have been destroyed and 1500 acres burned by a a brush fire that burned out of control in Santa Barbara County. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in Santa Barbara County today as rescue workers and firefighters fought the “Tea Fire,” named after the suspected place of origin, the Tea Garden Estate. The fire has caused 5500 people to evacuate, the destruction of a monastery and multi-million-dollar mansions, as well as the destruction of modest ranch style homes (BTW, these are STILL expensive in California). A 98-year-old man who had multiple medical conditions has died after evacuation.

The oceanside enclave of Montecito, which was affected by the fire, contains the homes of a number of celebrities, including those of Oprah Winfrey, Michael Douglas, and Rob Lowe. Hundreds of students at Westmont College spent the night in a fireproof gymnasium, as the fire destroyed eight campus buildings. (Note added November 17, 2008: A later report said that the campus itself was spared, but that fire burned 15 faculty homes nearby.)

(Note added November 15, 2008: I remember driving through Montecito with my family when one of our children attended the University of California, Santa Barbara. My recollections are of VERY steep streets, sweeping views of the ocean, and tall shrubberies (1, 2) blocking views of the multi-million-dollar mansions described above. Also, I suspect that the “modest ranch style homes” described above cost in excess of $1 million, and they may fall into the category of “multi-million-dollar-modest-ranch-style homes” that is so common a category in California.)

Less than a week ago, I wrote about the end of the 2008 fire season in a number of California counties that have received significant rain. The hills of the East Bay are starting to turn green from the growth of new blades of grass after a storm on November 1 brought significant rain to the Bay Area.

The fire season in California ends on a county-by-county basis. We wish firefighters good weather conditions for fighting the blaze in Santa Barbara County.

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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