Calif. Evacuees Back Home; Blaze Blamed on Power Tools

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 10, 2009 7:50 PM CDT
Eric Maillard turns away from what remains of his Orange Grove Avenue home that was partially burned during the Jesusita wildfire in Santa Barbara, Calif., Sunday, May 10, 2009.   (AP Photo/Michael A. Mariant)
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(Newser) – Thousands of Santa Barbara, Calif., residents were expected to return home today as officials blamed the Jesusita wildfire on brush-clearing power tools, the Los Angeles Times reports. Workers used the tools to clear trails and roads early last week. Officials approved all but 350 of 30,500 evacuees to return after firefighters reined in 55% of the 6-day-old fire, aided by cooler temperatures and low winds, the Los Angeles Times reports.

"The saving grace is lack of wind," said Santa Barbara County's fire chief. "Should the wind shift or weather change, there's always an opportunity for that fire to take off." The wildfire torched 8,700 acres and 31 homes in all. Residents whose homes still stood were celebrating. "I still have my cat here, my husband and my house," said Sofia Galina, 70. "It feels good."