Santa Barbara wildfire now 100 percent contained

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Associated Press

Posted on October 18, 2012 at 9:35 AM

Updated Thursday, Oct 18 at 10:36 PM

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) — Firefighters Thursday were able to surround a wildfire that briefly threatened 100 homes in rugged hillsides north of Santa Barbara.

The 44-acre blaze was 100 percent contained at about 5 p.m. Fourteen aircraft helped ground crews battle flames in rocky, chaparral-covered foothills about 10 miles north of the scenic coastal town, authorities said.

The fire erupted Wednesday near Highway 154 in the same Painted Cave area where a 1990 blaze killed one person and burned about 550 homes.

About 100 homes, ranging from cabins to more substantial houses, were threatened at the afternoon height of the blaze, and about 40 of the homes were evacuated. However, the residents were allowed to return just a few hours later as firefighters used an aggressive air and ground attack to gain a foothold amid calmer-than-expected winds.

One firefighter suffered a minor leg injury.

At the height of the fire, a dense plume of grayish-white smoke hovered over the steep hills and a line of flame snaked through a canyon.

Air tankers painted the flames with orange-red fire retardant, and firefighters armed with hoses made stands near homes.

The cause of the fire was unknown, but some power lines were down in the area, fire officials said.

Ganga White, founder and director of the nonprofit White Lotus Foundation yoga retreat, said he saw the fire erupt across the street, apparently from a downed power line.

The flames were 50 feet high but heading away from the retreat, where 35 people were attending a training session for yoga teachers, he said.

The retreat was not evacuated.

The area, about 75 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, is known as a fire hazard, especially when "sundowner" winds begin to blow through the canyons toward the ocean in the afternoon.

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