Tea Fire destroys at least 80 homes in Montecito, Santa Barbara

A huge fire driven by strong winds roared Thursday night in the hills above Montecito in Santa Barbara County, destroying up to 80 homes and forcing evacuations of luxury neighborhoods, authorities said.

The fire broke out about 6 p.m. in the wealthy Cold Springs area of Montecito, where a number of celebrities live, and quickly engulfed firefighters with its speed. The source of the fire had yet to be determined.

tea fire destroys homes in montecito

More than 1,000 firefighters were battling the inferno, dubbed the Tea fire. An evacuation center was set up at San Marcos Senior High School in Santa Barbara, and students at nearby Westmont College were told to gather in the campus gym.

As the fire swept through the college area, at least two buildings were destroyed, but no injuries were reported, authorities said.

More than 20,000 homes in Santa Barbara had their power knocked out by the blaze, but most of the homes had their power restored by late Thursday.

Montecito, whose 10,000 homeowners include actors John Cleese, Christopher Lloyd and Rob Lowe as well as talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, is about 90 miles from Los Angeles in coastal Santa Barbara County.