Independent reporter Chris Meagher is on scene at the main gate of Westmont College in Montecito. Windy conditions are exacerbating the Tea Fire, which authorities say started early this evening north of Westmont in an area known as the Tea Garden. According to Meagher’s latest report, the chapel and several residences are on fire at Westmont, it is very windy, and embers are flying around everywhere. The cause of the fire is not yet known. Santa Barbara County information officer William Boyer issued a statement telling people to stay out of the area. The roads are narrow and available space will be needed for fire trucks and equipment. “Westmont is ablaze,” said Meagher. According to officials, the Tea Fire is approximately 300 acres in size.
According to the latest reports, most of downtown Santa Barbara is currently without power, as is the Westside. The county has initiated its Emergency Operations Center, which has been set up at the County Administration building on the corner of Anacapa and Anapamu streets. They are without power and are running on backup power. As of now, the Montecito Fire Protection District is the lead agency in charge of the fire, but unified command may be adopted in the near future.
EVACUATIONS: A mandatory evacuation has been issued for all homes above Highway 192 (East Valley/Sycamore Canyon Road), between Hot Springs Road and Cold Spring Road. Although there is no official confirmation yet, KEYT reported that Mountain Drive has been evacuated as well. Westmont College students who are still on campus have been moved to a fireproof concrete building with provisions for 1,200 people. “[The evacuation] is all going according to plan,” said Westmont’s Gayle Beebe.
SHELTER: The American Red Cross set up a shelter at San Marcos High School, located at the intersection of Turnpike Road and Hollister Avenue. People evacuating to shelters who have animals needing to be housed should call (805) 681-4332. Large animals can be taken to Gate C at Earl Warren Showgrounds and small animals will be accommodated at a location on Overpass Road in Goleta.