A month after the last spate of wildfires destroyed California homes, strong winds are buffeting another raging fire that has already destroyed more than 80 homes in Santa Barbara County, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The so-called Tea fire has burned 1,500 acres and, like the last fire, it is being fed by hot, dry Santa Ana "devil winds" that at times have nearly reached hurricane-strength.
Firefighters are waiting for daybreak, to see if even more homes have been destroyed in the wealthy celebrity-studded enclave (Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Michael Douglas all own homes in the area, according to the Times).
Hundreds have been evacuated, including students from Westmont College.
"In the hills of Montecito," the Times reported, "residents could be seen packing up cars. Horse trailers and Porsches snaked their way down narrow, winding mountain roads."
Despite some spectacular fires this year, and despite ongoing concerns among scientists that global warming has increased wildfire risk, 2008 has been a relatively quiet year, overall for wildfires. Through October, 73,704 fires had burned nearly 5.1 million acres. The number of fires just about matches the 10-year average, but the acreage burned is 25% lower than the 10-year average.
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