Wildfires Scorch Westmont College

At least five buildings, including a dorm, have been severely damaged or destroyed.


The fast-moving California wildfire that has destroyed 100 homes, scorched 2,500 acres so far, and injured 13 has also struck Westmont College, a small, Christian liberal arts school in Santa Barbara. Officials report that several buildings, including a number of faculty homes, have been "lost or significantly damaged," the Associated Press reports

The Thursday night fire forced the more than 1,000 students to take shelter in the campus gymnasium, where most spent the night.

"I saw flames about 100 feet high in the air shooting up with the wind just howling," said [college spokesman Scott Craig]. "Now when the wind howls and you've got palm trees and eucalyptus trees that are literally exploding with their hot oil, you've got these big, red hot embers that are flying through the sky and are catching anything on fire."

Hundreds of students fled to gym, where they spent the night sleeping on the floor. Some stood in groups praying, others sobbed openly and comforted each other.

Beth Lazor, 18, said she was in her dormitory when the alarm went off. She said she only had time to grab her laptop, phone, a teddy bear, and a debit card before fleeing the burning building.

Her roommate, Catherine Wilson, said she didn't have time to get anything.

"I came out and the whole hill was glowing," Wilson said. "There were embers falling down."

At least one of the school's five dorms was destroyed, and the college's website listed at least four other university buildings partially or completely burnt.