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Most CA residents return home

Wildfire destroys nearly 80 homes, had forced evacuation of more than 30,000 people.

SANTA BARBARA, CA | May 11, 2009

The excessive heat broke Saturday, ushering in fog, drizzle and calmer winds helping firefighters finally make significant headway against the Jesusita fire that had forced more than 30,000 residents from their homes.

Firefighters said Sunday that the blaze was 65 per cent contained and expressed hope that it could be completely contained by mid-week, however, weather forecasters warned higher winds Tuesday could complicate the response. Temperatures in the high 90's and low humidity had complicated fire fighting efforts.

Fire investigators said they believe the blaze, which consumed 8,700 acres and destroyed 77 homes, was started when a power tool was used to clear brush near the Jesusita Trail. State forestry officials have pegged the cost of fighting the fire at $9 million.

Nearly all of the more than 30,000 people whom had been evacuated Friday returned home over the weekend. Less than 150 properties remained under mandatory evacuation orders Monday morning.

Disaster response organizations have been helping residents cope with the fires. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance sent two members of its National Response Team to Santa Barbara to help the local presbytery and Direct Relief International distributed free face masks to residents who were experiencing difficulty because of the smoke from the fire.

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