Sheriff: Bonfire caused a Calif. wildfire

November 18, 2008 5:59:44 PM PST
The Santa Barbara County sheriff says a weekend wildfire that destroyed 210 homes was caused accidentally by a bonfire built by a group of young adults. Sheriff Bill Brown said Tuesday that the 10 young people thought they put out the bonfire before they left. The destructive wildfire erupted about 13 hours after the group left the tea garden where the bonfire was built.

An anonymous tip led to the discovery.

The Santa Barbara fire injured more than two dozen people. A Montecito couple still are hospitalized with critical burns they suffered fleeing their home.

In all, the three fires have destroyed nearly 1,000 homes and apartments and burned 42,000 acres, or 65 square miles, forcing thousands to flee.

The state said Tuesday that the cost of fighting the wildfires is worsening the state's budget crisis. The governor's finance director, H.D. Palmer, said the state has spent $305 million on emergency firefighting since July 1. Only $69 million had been budgeted.

Lawmakers met in a special session to address the state's fiscal crisis and must act by the end of the month. The state also will seek federal reimbursement.

The first of the wildfires broke out in the Montecito area of Santa Barbara County, about 90 miles northwest of Sylmar. It destroyed 210 homes, many of them mansions that once had sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. It was fully contained by Monday night."

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said President-elect Barack Obama contacted him Sunday night to offer what help he could. Obama has turned his campaign Web site home page into a plea to help fire victims that includes a link to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's site, where people can sign up to volunteer or donate.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LINK.

Schwarzenegger on Monday asked the Bush administration to declare Southern California a federal disaster site. The governor said many of the residents affected by the fires - particularly mobile home owners - lacked insurance or are seriously underinsured.


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