Fire destroys 80+ houses in Montecito, Santa Barbara Tea Fire

A brush fire driven by 50- to 70-mph winds has destroyed 80+ houses (at the time of writing) in the Montecito, Santa Barbara (California) area.

The “Tea Fire” broke out about 6 pm local time near the Cold Springs area of Montecito. According to reports in the LA Times, the fire overwhelmed fire fighters:

“I have so many concerns,” said Terry McElwee, operation chief for the Montecito Fire Department. “It’s just moving so fast right now. . . . We’re having trouble rounding up enough resources.”

More than 1,000 firefighters were battling the blaze, including fire fighters from Santa Barbara County, the city of Santa Barbara, Montecito, Carpinteria, and the California Department of Forestry. Evacuations were in effect for an area above California 192, between Cold Springs Road and Hot Springs Road.

More when we have it.

Update 1: reports of 4 injured. Celebrity houses in the area include Oprah Winfrey and Rob Lowe. Power was out or still is to more than 20,000 homes in Santa Barbara.

Update 2: Santa Barbara Independent puts the number of homes destroyed as 100+.

Update 3: 4 injured details: two from burns and two from smoke inhalation. More as we have it.

Update 4: Montecito evacuation orders from around midnight local time:

TEA FIRE EVACUATION UPDATES

All residents above Alameda Padre Serra (APS) from Eucalyptus Hill Road to Salinas/5 points area to Tunnel Road and above Hwy 192 between Hot Springs Road and Mission Canyon Rd/Tunnel Road.

Residents on both sides of Tunnel Road above Montrose.

Only residents on the east side of Tunnel Road below Montrose.

Residents on Gibraltar Road above the west fork of the Cold Springs Trail should evacuate to the North via Camino Cielo. Residents below the west fork should evacuate South.

Evacuation Center is located at San Marcos High School – 4750 Hollister Ave,Goleta.

Update 5: Montecito, Santa Barbara Schools Closed Friday:

* Cleveland Elementary
* Cold Springs Elementary
* Lower campus of Laguna Blanca
* Marymount
* Anacapa
* Santa Barbara Middle School
* Montecito Union schools

Update 6 (1:15 am PST): unconfirmed reports that a State of Emergency has been declared in the area and further evacuations. Reports on the damage at Westmont College saying the campus has “suffered significant damage from the blaze.”

“One dorm is kind of burnt, the math and physics building is burning, the baseball complex and a few others [are burning],” Betsy Schutz, a second-year student at Westmont, said. “I know that the prayer chapel has burned

Update 7: video footage

Update 8: other home owners in the area include John Cleese, Christopher Lloyd, Rob Lowe, Craig McCaw, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt. No word yet on whether any of their house have been affected, but another reports suggests “at least 70 multimillion-dollar homes” have been destroyed.