LOS ANGELES -- A powerful flare-up on the western edge of Southern California's largest and most destructive wildfire sent residents fleeing Sunday, as wind-fanned flames churned through old-growth brush in canyons and along hillsides toward coastal towns.
Crews with help from a fleet water-dropping planes and helicopters saved homes as unpredictable gusts sent the blaze deeper into residential foothill areas northwest of Los Angeles that haven't burned in decades. New evacuations were ordered as the fire sent up an enormous plume near Montecito and Carpinteria, seaside areas in Santa Barbara County that had been under fire threat for days and were now choked with smoke.
"The winds are kind of squirrely right now," said county fire spokesman Mike Eliason. "Some places the smoke is going straight up in the air, and others it's blowing sideways. Depends on what canyon we're in."
The department posted a photo of one residence engulfed in flames. It's unclear whether other structures burned. Thousands of homes and businesses in the county were without power.
The air thick with acrid smoke, even residents of areas not under evacuation orders took the opportunity to leave, fearing another shutdown of US 101, a key coastal highway that was closed intermittently last week.
Officials handed out masks to residents who stayed behind in Montecito, the wealthy hillside enclave that's home to celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bridges and Rob Lowe.
"Our house is under threat of being burned," Ellen DeGeneres tweeted at midday Sunday. "We just had to evacuate our pets. I'm praying for everyone in our community and thankful to all the incredible firefighters."
Our house is under threat of being burned. We just had to evacuate our pets. I’m praying for everyone in our community and thankful to all the incredible firefighters. The live stream is on https://t.co/FTcKVvHO16— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) December 10, 2017