Page last updated at 19:01 GMT, Saturday, 9 May 2009 20:01 UK

California lifts fire evacuations


California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger visits some of the fire evacuees

Californian fire officials say nearly a third of the wildfire that has burnt 80 homes and forced 30,000 people to flee from Santa Barbara is under control.

Officials have allowed most of the evacuees to go home as they downgraded the evacuation orders to warnings.

The city's deputy fire chief credited cooler weather for the progress, but warned those conditions may not last.

The 8,600-acre (3,480ha) blaze remains a "sleeping giant" along its eastern flank, the officials said.

But a morning fog, cooler weather and light winds on Saturday allowed fire-fighters to make progress.

Officials say the fire is now 30% contained, meaning they have almost a third of the blaze under control, but they remain on alert.

"The weather tends to be a little fickle around here," said deputy fire chief Chris Hahn. "So our guard is up."


Some 4,000 fire-fighters have been brought in to battle the fast-moving fire, along with a fleet of aircraft water tankers.

Thirteen of them have been injured since the blaze broke out on Tuesday, including three who were hospitalised with burns and smoke inhalation.

Sundowners, fierce local winds that sweep down the mountains and out to sea, have been whipping up the flames in recent days as temperatures remained high.

The area's last major brush fire destroyed more than 200 homes in November. It was blamed on a bonfire started by local students.

The cause of the present fire, which began on Tuesday, is under investigation.

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