With 100-foot flames powered by 60 mph-plus winds, the Jesusita fire is becoming a worst nightmare, as television shots show homes being consumed and the march of smoke and fire comes toward Santa Barbara. Smoke can now be seen emerging from the neighborhood directly behind the Santa Barbara Mission, apparently near the Museum of Natural History. At a 5 p.m. press conference at Earl Warren Showgrounds, there was only one firefighter on hand, and he was the spokesperson, David Sadecki.
“The fire is moving very, very rapidly,” he said. “We had anticipated a wind event, and we certainly got it.”
Sadecki confirmed that winds of 40 to 50 miles per hour, temperatures reaching 102 degrees, and a very low humidity was making a perfect firestorm. “With all those features combined,” he said, “you can see what the results are.”
Sadecki explained that the firefighters are now “trying to save as many homes as they can.” Air attacks on the fire have also resumed and 20 more strike teams have been requested, amounting to 100 more engines and 400 more firefighters. He would not confirm that any structures were lost, but anyone watching television had already seen that with their own eyes. Explosions can also be heard in the hills, likely caused by propane tanks popping. Sadecki could confirm that at least one firefighter was being treated for minor injuries, but could not discuss reports of more firefighters or of possible residents being treated for severe burns.
Sheriff Bill Brown discussed the ongoing evacuations, and explained that the mandatory evac has been expanded to stretch more into the city. Now included are all properties on the mountainside of State Street, from San Roque Road to Micheltorena streets. That includes a large swath of downtown and the Upper East Side. The mandatory evac continues up until Micheltorena stops, and then up to APS.
Brown said that more than 12,000 reverse 911 calls had gone out, and urged all residents to leave as soon as possible, since traffic was already a growing problem. “They need to pack up and move in an orderly fashion out of the area,” said Brown. He also explained that all of his resources have been deployed, that other agencies throughout the county have also contributed to the law enforcement effort, and that he has asked for more help from beyond Santa Barbara County to deal with traffic and other situations.
It’s also being reported that, like during the Tea Fire, Westmont University in Montecito has evacuated their students to the gym.
UPDATE: Westmont has not evacuated the students, according to their spokesperson.