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Officials call the Santa Barbara County wildfire an accident

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Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times — A Montecito home is destroyed by last Thursday’s wildfire.

 

Late today, officials announced last week’s destructive wildfire in Santa Barbara County was caused by a bonfire in the Tea House Garden area above the upscale enclave, Montecito.

Some young people reportedly created the bonfire and thought they had put it out before they left. Sundowner winds of 70 miles an hour apparently whipped some of the remains of that bonfire into a firestorm on Thursday night.  More than 210 homes, including one owned by actor Christopher Lloyd, were destroyed and around 19 hundred acres were charred.

That wildfire is now at least 95 percent contained, but fire crews will have to keep a close eye on it because strong winds are forecast over the next few days. 

Earlier today, President Bush declared California a federal disaster area in the wake of those wildfires in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange Counties. This declaration makes the state eligible for federal funds and assistance to help cover the cost of the wildfires and recovery.

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