Dropping temperatures, rain could help contain California wildfires: Report
Fox News’ Jeff Paul discusses the raging wildfires in Santa Barbara County, California.
GOLETA, Calif. — Most of the thousands of people who fled a raging California wildfire in the mountains north of Santa Barbara were told they could return home Tuesday as an approaching storm offered hope the flames would be doused.
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About 4,000 of the nearly 5,500 evacuees were affected when authorities reduced the size of the evacuation zone.
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The blaze had blackened more than 6.5 square miles (16.8 square kilometers) of the rugged Santa Ynez Mountains, but most of that acreage was scorched in its first hours Monday.
The fire was 10 percent contained by Tuesday evening and officials said about 2,400 homes and other buildings remained threatened.
Fire commanders described a fierce battle that saved homes as the blaze consumed brush in an area that hadn’t burned in 29 years.
“We’ve had winds move up slope, down slope, across the slope,” Santa Barbara County fire Battalion Chief Anthony Stornetta said.
An infamous 1990 wildfire in the same area destroyed more than 400 homes.
CALIFORNIA WILDFIRE FORCES THOUSANDS TO FLEE THEIR HOMES
“It’s just a hard, difficult piece of country to fight fire in and the weather is the most extreme anywhere around,” said Jim Harris, Los Padres National Forest fire chief.
Rudy Gruber, 79, watched the smoke and flames from the top of a hill near his house in Santa Barbara.
Despite orders to evacuate, he said he decided not to leave because he didn't think the fire would cross a canyon to his home. Plus, it'd be tough to move his 50-pound tortoise, Amstel.
Even so, he’s been prepared for about a year, packing photo albums, computers and a carrier for his cat Scooter.