A fire was reported around 9 p.m. in the 1500 block of Holiday Hill Road. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department said a fire started at a home and then spread to nearby brush.
The blaze, dubbed the Holiday Fire, quickly spread and within 45 minutes threatened homes in the 1300 and 1400 blocks of Fairview Avenue, near Cathedral Oaks.
Footage from the areas showed some homes up in flames as sundowner winds up to 45 mph and hot conditions fueled the fire.
At least 20 homes were destroyed by the blaze and between 2,200 and 2,500 people were evacuated.
Santa Barbara County Fire PIO Mike Eliason said he saw multiple structures burned and that conditions were hazardous.
More than 30 engines and two night-flying helicopters tried to control the quickly spreading fire.
An evacuation center was set up at the Goleta Valley Community Center, 5679 Hollister Ave. Anyone who needs help with animal evacuations was urged to call (805) 681-4332.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.