Map of Tea fire (from television)

The quality of these images photographed from a television is not great, but here they are. The TV crew shot video of them on the wall at the Incident Command Post. We believe the boundary that zig-zags east/west across the map is the border of the Los Padres National Forest, with the forest being on the north side of the line. At the very bottom of the second map are the cities of Montecito and Santa Barbara.

At the top-center of the first map you can barely make out Gibraltar Road that goes roughly north out of Santa Barbara up into the National Forest past Rattlesnake Canyon Park.

We posted other maps and information about the fire in other posts here, here, and here.

Click on the maps to see larger versions.

Update on Tea fire near Montecito

Update @ 12:30 p.m. PT

Westmont college was providing updates on their regular website even after the electricity was cut off by using natural gas-powered generators, but after the gas line was turned off they operated for a few hours on UPS (batteries) before they had to shut down. Now they have a temporary web site set up (probably off campus?) with current updates HERE.

This is their latest entry:

8:00 am: There are no active fires on campus, no injuries, and everyone is safe.

Wesmont has 326 students remaining in the Gym; those students with transportation have been released from campus because it is safe for them to travel on area roads.

Westmont has lost eight structures, four buildings in Clark halls (F,G,M,S), the physics building, the old math building and the two quonset huts. The later three structures were scheduled for demolition soon.

Fourteen faculty homes in Las Barrancas have burned; there is damage to trees, and wooded areas on campus, but much of the formal gardens remains intact.

How to get more information:

Information for local residents about evacuations, road closures, and a phone number to call, (805) 681-5197, can be found at the Santa Barbara County web site.

Update @ 9:15 a.m. PT

Information from a press conference that just occurred:

  • The winds were 60 mph when the fire started at 6 p.m. near the Tea House yesterday.
  • It started in the city of Montecito, but now is managed under a Unified Command by Commanders from Montecito, U.S. Forest Service, Santa Barbara County, and Santa Barbara City.
  • The current strategy is to hook the fire on the east and west flanks and drive it up into the national forest, protecting the urban area. The coast in that area runs east and west.
  • There have been two serious burn injuries. (Fox 11 had an interview with a doctor from a burn center who reported that a firefighter from LA City with serious burns was treated and released from his facility.)
  • A CalFire incident management team will assume command at 6 p.m. today.

Los Angeles TV Channel 4 reported that a dozen faculty homes at Westmont College burned.


As the sun comes up over the Tea fire south of Santa Barbara, California near Montecito it is becoming evident that 2,500 1,500 acres and at least 100 homes have burned. There are reports that 13 people have been injured and are being treated in hospitals, 10 of them with smoke inhalation, but 3 have been transported to burn centers in the Los Angeles area.

A map of the Tea fire can be found at our earlier post. Two maps are available and they should be current if you refresh your browser. The maps also show the evacuation areas.

Photo courtesy of TC on flickr

The Tea fire was pushed by winds that are unique to the Santa Barbara area. Called Sundowner winds, they often begin in the late afternoon or early evening and replace the usual cool, moist coastal air with with a hot, dry wind. These winds backed off overnight and are expected to blow at about 10-15 mph today with temperatures in the mid-80s. Red flag warnings are in effect for some areas of southern California with wind gusts up to 60-70 mph possible in the mountain areas of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties through Saturday.

About 700 firefighters will be working the fire today, and they expect to have help from 9 helicopters and 10 air tankers, including the DC-10 air tanker. Last night three night-flying helicopters made water drops.

Several buildings burned on the 135-acre campus of Westmont College, a private religious college, but no injuries were reported as 800 students took refuge in the gymnasium. The local Fox 11 TV station this morning reported that the physics building, the psychology building, and a couple of dorms burned.

The Montecito area has one of the highest concentrations of very expensive homes in the world and many celebrities have residences there, including Steve Martin, Steven Spielburg, Kevin Costner, Kirk Douglas, Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe, and Ellen Degeneres.

Map of Tea fire

Here is a rough map that shows some of the evacuation areas around the Tea fire south of Santa Barbara, California near Montecito. This map may update automatically if you refresh your browser. Click on the “view larger map” below to see more details and the time it was created. More information about the fire is in our earlier post.

View Larger Map

Here is another map. The blue area is the evacuation area, while the red is the approximate area of the fire.

View Larger Map

California: dozens of homes burn in Tea fire

The Tea fire started at 6 p.m. Thursday and has burned dozens of homes south of Santa Barbara near the community of Montecito, according to Fox Channel 11. Spokesperson Michelel Mickiewicz of Santa Barbara County said at 10:15 p.m. PT that 1,000 acres have burned and 125 engines have been ordered. At least one night-flying water-dropping helicopter has also been ordered but the winds have made it difficult to use aircraft. The crew from the Channel 2 helicopter was able to count at least 50 homes that had burned as of 11 p.m PT, and that was in the dark.

Fox is reporting that the library, the physics building, and some dorms at Westmont College have burned. About 800 students are being sheltered in the gymnasium while structures on their campus burn.

The fire has been pushed by Santa Ana winds, which have died down tonight in the fire area, but on Friday they are expected to blow with gusts up to 60 mph along with high temperatures and very low humidites. The fire is close to the coast, but the winds more inland are being measured tonight at 50+ mph.

Wildfire news, November 13, 2008

Report says fires more of a threat to old growth than logging

From the Bend Bulletin:

Threats to old-growth trees in the region’s federal forests have changed over the decade and a half since the Northwest Forest Plan went into effect in 1994. While logging of the big, old trees has dropped dramatically since the plan, wildfires are now consuming more acres of the valuable habitat. 

That switch, reinforced by numbers from a new study by U.S. Forest Service scientists and others, means forest managers need to take action across the landscape to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, according to the authors.

The researchers, including people from other federal research stations and Oregon State University, used satellite images from between 1972 and 2002 to track what was happening to forests with trees bigger than 20 inches across.

They found that loggers cut an increasing amount of large trees on federal lands from the late 1970s to the late 1980s, but then activity abruptly fell off after the late 1990s.

BDF Engine 56 crash

From FirefighterCloseCalls:

On October 3rd, 2008, at approximately 1940 hrs., a Strike Team made up of 4 BDF (San Bernardino National Forest in southern California) engines and 1 BLM (Bureau of Land Management) engine were traveling from the ICP to their night shift assignment. While in a curve, the right rear wheels of Engine #56 ran off the roadway and caught a four to six inch drop between the asphalt and shoulder. 

The driver attempted to correct the situation, resulting in the engine veering across the road, hitting a dirt embankment and rolling over on the left hand side of the road. The engine landed on the passenger side.

The five crew members were treated on scene and transported by ground ambulance to Mee Memorial Hospital in King City, CA. All crew members were treated and released with minor injuries. There were no other vehicles involved. The road was paved, dry, and clear.

The engine is undergoing a complete mechanical inspection & cost repair estimate. A Regional Accident Prevention Analysis Team (APA) has been assigned and is in the process of gathering information.

Maryland brush truck destroyed on wildland fire

From FirefighterCloseCalls:

In Prince Georges County, MD, the Baden VFD 4-wheel drive Jeep brush unit was involved in a single vehicle crash around 2:15 PM, Wednesday, November 12, 2008. Fortunately, there were no injuries, however, the vehicle was destroyed by the fire it was responding to extinguish. 

The 1978 CJ5 Jeep, designed to battle outside fires in difficult off-road terrain and wooded areas, responded from the Baden Fire/EMS Station to a reported field fire in the 16300 Block of Aquasco Road in Aquasco. A hay baler had accidentally ignited dry hay and the fire started to quickly spread.

As the brush unit approached the scene, smoke from the fire was lying close to the ground. The smoke obscured the view of the driver and a large rolled bale of hay was in the path of the unit. The brush unit, with two seat-belted firefighters on-board, struck the bale and rolled onto its side directly into the seat of the field fire.

The vehicle quickly was overcome by the fire, however, both firefighters escaped unharmed. Additional units responded to the scene to extinguish the fire.

As is standard procedure, the operator of the vehicle went through a post accident substance screening. The vehicle is considered a total loss.

Super cute kid telling a grand story

OK, so it has nothing to do with wildland fire, but you have to watch this 4-minute video of a super cute French kid ad-libbing a story about crocodiles, hippos, “chicken box”, and monkeys. It’ll put you in a good mood for the rest of the day.

Once upon a time… from Capucha on Vimeo.

I think her name is Capucine. She once said:

“There are thousands and thousands of stars in the sky, but we don’t have enough fingers to count them.”