H-SANTA BARBARA

Jul 8, 2011 10:16 PM by Ariel Wesler

Apartment fire leaves dozens homeless

Around 50 people are homeless tonight after an early morning fire in Santa Barbara. The fire destroyed one apartment building and damaged two others. Flames broke out just before three o'clock this morning in the 1400 block of De La Vina Street in Santa Barbara. All seven of the city's fire crews were called out to the scene, but everyone got out safely.

Liz Ortega is just one of dozens evacuated by an early morning fire that damaged three apartment buildings in Santa Barbara.

"I just moved June 18th," Ortega said.

A neighbor woke her up and told her to leave.

"I didn't know what was going on, so I got out and there was smoke just all in front of the unit," Ortega said.
"I literally just watched it from the grass, watched it burn."

Firefighters say the intense heat blew out nearly all the windows of this apartment complex next door. It took crews about an hour to knock down the flames. Ortega got out with her life, but not much else.

"They were able to get my dad's dog tags, and that was it," she said.

Meanwhile, friends of the people living in another damaged unit were bagging up what they could, including some valuable comic books.

"I have to go through and see if any of them are salvageable, but it doesn't look like it," said John Elleston," who was sorting through the damage. "Some of them are worth $400 dollars each."

But the fire left this piece of history still standing.

"The movie studio was called "Flying A Studios" and they housed a lot of their people in this old Victorian. It was a boarding house," said Hank Homburg with the Santa Barbara Fire Department.

Despite some severe damage, firefighters say all the buildings were properly equipped.

"I have no doubt that it probably saved some lives that they had smoke detectors in their units," Homburg said.

Firefighters say only a couple people had to rely on the Red Cross for shelter. Most are staying with family. Ortega will be staying with her sister in Ventura, where she lived before moving to Santa Barbara last month.

The total damage is estimated at $800,000. Investigators say it will take them a couple of days to determine what caused this fire.

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