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Homes burning in Santa Barbara hills as fire rages out of control [Updated]

May 6, 2009 |  5:10 pm

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Several homes burned this afternoon in the hills above Santa Barbara as a brush fire fueled by hot, dry winds raged out of control.

So-called Sundowner winds picked up this afternoon, re-energizing a brush fire that has been burning for more than 24 hours.

Hot, dry winds were pushing the fire into hillside areas dotted by large homes.

[Updated at 5:25 p.m.: Two firefighters were trapped in a house when the fire swept through and suffered burns, according to the Santa Barbara News-Press. They were taken to a hospital, but their condition was not immediately known.

TV news reporters were overhead saying that they saw at least a half-dozen homes destroyed by the fire, and predicting that number would grow. Hundreds of homes are under evacuation orders and parts of downtown Santa Barbara could be evacuated later in the evening.]

Fire officials were upbeat at a news conference this morning. They reduced their estimate of the fire's size from 420 acres to 196 acres, saying that thick smoke overnight led to the miscalculation by aerial observers. No structures had been destroyed at that time.

"I'm guardedly optimistic," interim Santa Barbara City Fire Chief Andrew DiMizio said earlier today. "This is the first time in my career I've used those words."

Flames worked their way Tuesday night through brush that had not burned in decades, but the wildfire was slowed by moisture levels higher than they are during a typical autumn fire season.

-- Steve Chawkins and Catherine Saillant

MapFire map from the county of Santa Barbara.

Photo: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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