Thousands of Calif. Fire Evacuees to Head Home

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2009 12:39 PM CDT
A firefighting helicopter crew work to extinguish a spot fire beside San Marcos Pass Road in Santa Barbara, Calif.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Thanks to cooler, more humid weather and a drop-off in damaging winds, thousands of Santa Barbara wildfire evacuees are being allowed back home, the Los Angeles Times reports. Firefighters fought back the fire significantly last night, containing the 8,700-acre Jesusita blaze in Santa Barbara by 30%. Most of the 30,500 residents ordered to flee over the past few days will return to their houses in phases this afternoon.

Firefighters worked through the night cutting firebreaks and monitoring hotspots, and they improved containment by 20% since yesterday. Officials say they expect the blaze to be fully contained by Wednesday. Still, officials cautioned that 3,500 structures were still in danger, and all mandatory evacuations remained in effect. As the National Weather Service lifted its red flag warning over the region, some evacuees returned to their homes, albeit illegally. “We don't want to be in anybody's way, but it is private property,” a woman said.