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Santa Barbara evacuation orders lifted: 'Everyone's happy'

May 14, 2009 | 12:54 pm

Jesusitaburnedhomes Firefighters today are mopping up the remains of the 10-day-old Jesusita fire in Santa Barbara, calling it 90% contained this morning.

All evacuation orders and warnings related to the fire have been lifted after a return of warm winds failed to reignite still-smoldering embers and hot spots, an official said today.

"It's been wind-tested,'' spokesman John Jayasinghe said. "Everyone's happy around here."

More than 2,700 fire personnel are still on scene, cutting a wide swath around the 8,733-acre burn area and dousing whatever hot spots remain.

Firefighters are gradually being released to return to their home stations or other fires, Jayasinghe said. "We are still ready. But we are definitely in a demobilization mode."

More than 30,000 Santa Barbara residents were evacuated from their homes at the height of the wildfire. After further assessment, officials said 80 homes had been destroyed and 15 damaged. An additional 81 outbuildings and one commercial property also have been destroyed or damaged.

Residents who have lost homes are invited to a fire recovery meeting Monday that will answer questions on debris removal, assign project case managers and provide other assistance. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the board hearing room on the fourth floor of the County Administration Building, 105 E. Anapamu St., Santa Barbara.

Officials believe the fire was sparked May 5 by someone using power tools to clear brush on the Jesusita Trail high in the Santa Barbara foothills. Anyone with information is asked to call a tip line at (805) 686-5074.

The cost of battling the blaze so far was estimated at $17 million.

--Catherine Saillant


Firemap140 Check out The Times' interactive map to see the locations of the homes, photos of the destruction at some locations and the perimeters of this fire.
In the eye of the firestorm
From the scene Interactive: 360° panoramic images
Big Burn: The Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning series on the cost and growth of wildfires.