Gusty winds forecast to return to SoCal fire area

Gusty winds forecast to return to SoCal fire area

13 May 2009

published by www.mercurynews.com


USA — Fierce wind gusts that drove a wildfire into a destructive frenzy were forecast to return Wednesday as crews worked to finally encircle the smoldering remnants of the blaze.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning of extreme fire danger because of low humidity and sustained north winds to 35 mph with gusts to 60 mph in the late afternoon and evening.

The 8,733-acre Santa Barbara fire was 80 percent contained and has been dormant for days after days of cooler, more humid weather and rounds of morning fog.

The fire that began May 5 ran through high, dry brush in the scenic hills above Santa Barbara, destroying 78 homes and damaging 22 others. Sixty-seven outbuildings were also destroyed and 69 others were damaged.

The fire injured 29 firefighters. Most of the injuries were minor but two Ventura County firefighters were burned and a third suffered smoke inhalation when they were trapped in a burning home they had tried to protect.

Firefighter Robert Lopez, 44, of Port Hueneme, was the only one still hospitalized. Lopez, who had second- and third-degree burns over 15 percent of his body, underwent surgery on Tuesday at the Grossman Burn Center in Los Angeles.

Burn center spokesman Roy Forbes said the procedure went well, but Lopez would likely remain hospitalized for at least six more days.

The U.S. Forest Service, meanwhile, said Los Padres National Forest lands above Santa Barbara and neighboring Montecito and Goleta would be closed until the wildfire is fully suppressed.


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