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Cemetery fire burns all night, discovered in morning fog

MONTECITO, Calif. - A smell of smoke for hours in Santa Barbara baffled firefighters all night until a worker at the coastal cemetery came in and saw a large tree burning.

The site at 901 Channel Drive is in Montecito at the Santa Barbara City border. The smoke was drifting toward the city in a Northwest direction.

Multiple 911 calls came in throughout the night about the smell of smoke around Milpas, State Street and in the morning, there was a change. The smell was reported on Olive Mill Rd. to the east of the original calls.

A worker at the cemetery came in to find flames in the tree over looking the ocean and some of the groundscape burning.

The cause is under investigation.

Several homeless encampments below the tree were found in the beach area.

Fire crews have used multiple engines on the tree estimated to be 70-feet tall.

Battalion Chief David Neels with Montectio Fire says it will be an all day assignment to douse the tree which was burning from the inside by mid morning.

A tree crew will carefully have to take down the tree in sections to avoid it hitting the beach or headstones on the cemetery side.

"Because of the integrity of the tree we are fighting it from a distance," said Neels.

Hecredits the manager of the cemetery for finding the fire about 6 a.m.

"This tree is in a unique location. It is right on the bluffs. It has a 60-foot fall down to the beach," said Neels.

He said they can not cut it down with their own equipment and need a tree company to systematically cut if apart.

Assisting the Montecito Fire Department has been the Santa Barbara City Fire Department with engines and the ladder truck.

Without hydrants nearby, a shuttle system of water from truck to truck was set up.

The Santa Barbara Cemetery remains open, with a small area cordoned off by fire crews to deal with the tree fire

Watch tonight on KEYT NewsChannel 3, KCOY NewsChannel 12 and KKFX Fox 11

Safety / Santa Barbara- S County

John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and KCOY 12 Central Coast News.

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