New evacuations announced as California fires threaten celebrity homes

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On Saturday, mandatory evacuations were implemented around Montecito and neighboring Summerland California, located on the outskirts of Santa Barbara and northwest of Los Angeles, with portions of Santa Barbara also was under mandatory evacuation.

Residents fled the area as one of the largest fires in California’s history moved closer. The Associated Press reports that 30 mph winds, with gusts of nearly 60 mph, pushed the fire into the region.

The AP reports:

The [Santa Barabara] zoo was under voluntary evacuation, and workers there began putting some animals into crates and kennels as a precaution.

The northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 101, coming up the coast from Los Angeles, were closed for a few hours south of Santa Barbara, with cars stopped on the freeway.

The 404-square-mile (1,046-sq. kilometer) Thomas Fire was moving rapidly westward and crested Montecito Peak, just north of Montecito.

Known for its star power, the enclave boasts the mansions of Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and many other celebrities.

Winfrey reacted to reports on Twitter, writing: Still praying for our little town. Winds picked up this morning creating a perfect storm of bad for firefighters.”

Pierre Henry, owner of the Bree’osh Bakery in Montecito described the scene: “The worst was the smoke. You couldn’t breathe at all and it became worse when the wind started. All the ashes and the dust on the street were in the air. It was very, very frightening.”

Henry said it was an eerie scene, devoid of people except for firefighters, according to the AP. 

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning of extreme fire danger for the 13th straight day, citing hot, dry, windy conditions. The fire is the third-largest in California history, having burned over 700 homes.

It has tragically claimed the life of a state firefighter, Cory Iverson, 32, who perished on Thursday. An autopsy report released Saturday reveals that he died from burns and smoke inhalation. Details of his death were not released.

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