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California Wildfires Destroy More than 100 Homes


Firefighters near Santa Barbara, California, are battling wildfires that have destroyed more than 100 homes and injured at least 13 people. Mike O'Sullivan reports, thousands of residents have been evacuated and many houses remain threatened, including the homes of some celebrities.

More than 1,100 firefighters and a squadron of aircraft are battling the wildfires, which are raging though neighborhoods in Montecito and nearby Santa Barbara, 120 kilometers northwest of Los Angeles. The fires began Thursday evening in the Los Pares National Forest and by Friday morning, had spread to more one thousand hectares. Authorities say the cause of the fires was not immediately known.

Santa Barbara Fire Chief Ron Prince more than 100 homes have been lost to the blazes. "There's been a huge loss of property, so our hearts go out to those folks. It's been a real tragedy in that respect...We have two serious burn injuries, but the rest of the injuries have been minor. We don't have any reports of any fatalities yet, so we feel very fortunate about that," he said.

Montecito is home to multi-million dollar estates owned by such stars as Michael Douglas and Rob Lowe, and television host Oprah Winfrey. Spokesmen for Lowe and Winfrey told Associated Press their homes had not been destroyed.

Fires did destroy several buildings at Westmont College, a Christian liberal arts school, after flames tens of meters high erupted from trees on campus.

Firefighters got help from at least nine water-dropping helicopters and 10 air tankers. Crews from around southern California arrived to assist.

Gusty winds fanned the flames Thursday night, but calmer conditions Friday allowed firefighters to make some headway. Authorities cannot say then the blazes will be contained.

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