by Scott London
The Jesusita Fire took almost everyone by surprise when it began on the afternoon of May 5. It’s the third major wildfire in Santa Barbara in just nine months, and many here are still recovering from the devastating Tea Fire last November.
The blaze is still out of control and details are sketchy, but we know that dozens of homes have already been lost. I witnessed some of them go up in flames myself before being forced out by the authorities.
Here are some of my photos:
This image was taken from Painted Cave Road at 3:30 p.m. on May 5, just a couple of hours after the fire began. The trail of the smoke shows the typical sundowner pattern — blowing across the city and out to sea, just as the devastating Gap and Tea fires did last year.
The Jesusita Fire burns in the hills above Santa Barbara, California. Taken from Camino Cielo in the late afternoon on May 5, 2009. The small black dot in the center is a fixed wing aircraft surveying the hotspots.
Smoke and ash darken the sky above Santa Barbara as night falls on day one of the fire.
On the evening of the first day, the fire was still confined to a relatively small area of less than 200 acres, as seen in this long exposure taken from Elings Park.
Thick smoke drifts out over the city on the second day of the fire, as seen in this shot from Las Tunas Road on the Riviera.
The flames rage in the hills perilously close to Santa Barbara’s historic mission. It seems fitting that local firefighters and police would use the spot as an ad hoc staging ground.
Santa Barbara County firefighters gather at the mission to plan their next assault as the fire continues its spread east and south toward the city.
Fanned by strong winds, flames and smoke wreak havoc in the densely populated neighborhood above Foothill Road, just west of Mission Canyon Road.
Huge flames ravage the foothills above Mountain Drive.
Putrid smoke and ash choked the skies and obscured the sun, bathing the city in an eerie red light.
A chopper dumps water over a structure burning on Mountain Drive.
Intense sundowner winds scatter and fan the flames, as seen in this photo taken from Stanwood Drive.
The size and sheer force of the inferno was staggering.
A terrifying firestorm erupts in the hills above Mission Canyon.
A palm tree scorched in the recent Tea Fire stands on a now vacant lot on Conejo Road, as smoke and ash from the new Jesusita Fire darken the skies above.
The eastern edge of the Jesusita Fire was still burning out of control late on Wednesday night. This photo was taken on Ortega Ridge Road in Summerland.
Strong offshore winds continued to fan the flames of the Jesusita Fire above Santa Barbara, as seen in this image taken at Elings Park.
Intense smoke and ash covered the city of Santa Barbara as the Jesusita Fire continued to burn on several fronts on Wednesday night.
Relatively calm winds during the morning and afternoon of day three kept the Jesusita Fire confined mainly to the mountains near Cathedral Peak.
As the afternoon wore on, the winds intensified and fanned the flames westward.
A dark plume of drift smoke could be seen all the way to Ventura and beyond. This photo was taken from Carpinteria at 6:30 p.m. just as the sundowner winds kicked up and stoked the fires anew.
Strong early evening winds fanned the flames and sent black smoke into the skies above Santa Barbara. This image was shot from Ortega Hill at sunset.
As the sun set on the third day of the Jesusita Fire, the sky turned ominously red and ash started falling like snowflakes. The palmettos on Channel Drive can be seen bending in the strong wind.
By 9:00 o’clock on Thursday, the fire was raging out of control across a wide swath of the Santa Barbara foothills, from San Roque Canyon to the east all the way to Highway 154 to the west.
The Jesusita Fire continued to burn in Santa Barbara on Friday, though lower temperatures and relatively calm winds kept the flames confined mainly to the hills above the city. After sunset, the skies were still dark with drift smoke and ash, as seen in this image taken from Butterfly Beach.
By Friday evening, the Jesusita Fire had consumed 8,400 acres and cut a swath some five miles wide from the ridges above Montecito all the way to Painted Cave.
The Jesusita Fire continued to rage in the hills above Montecito on Friday evening.
Flames from the Jesusita Fire lit up the evening sky above Santa Barbara on Friday evening, as seen in this image taken at the Andree Clark Bird Refuge.