By Lila Gibson and Camila Angeles
Santa Barbara and Ventura counties have been through a lot recently. Starting with the Thomas fire roaring to life on December 4, the travesties began. Only recently was the fire fully contained on January 12th. It burned 281,893 acres, destroyed at least 1,063 buildings/structures and damaged 280 others. Residents from Ventura, Carpinteria, and Montecito were forced to evacuate at some point during this fire while others voluntarily left due to the smoke, or fear of the fire getting too close. Businesses closed, and lost profits for up to several weeks. But thanks to the firefighters amazing efforts most people could be in their homes for Christmas with a major advancement happening in the days leading up. The smoke soon cleared out and Santa Barbara began its long recovery. With dry air and ash covering everything, rain was what most people thought was needed. That is quite the opposite. With the burned vegetation there would be nothing to absorb the water and it would gather on top creating mud and unstable ground. This would lead to mudslides and flooding. Unfortunately heavy rains were predicted to hit, parts of Montecito expected to get hit the worst. Lots of preparations were made but disaster hit early morning on January 10th. At 3:00 am the rains picked up and there were five inches in almost three hours. It is now early February but things are still very different, all residents trying to get back to normalcy. Whether you were directly affected or not, these disasters seem to have caused something in all Santa Barbara residents lives. Here are how our Journalism students were affected.
Bennett Van Donge
My family and I were evacuated from the Thomas Fire for about two weeks. We went and stayed in a hotel for the two weeks. It was super smoky down there, but it began to clear up when the fire began to go further back in the hills. We are thankful that our family is safe.
A lot of people have been affected, counting me, because I have lost two close friends and it has been different without my mom picking them up to go to dinner or school anymore. I am hopeful for all the families that are in deep depression over friends and family out there. My prayers go out to you guys. My whole block has been quiet and and many were people talking about the mudslide. Let’s get over this hump and start a new chapter.
I wasn’t affected much myself by the tragedies because I live downtown. However, I had lots of friends and family that was affected and it was definitely rough emotionally. One of my close friends Sofia, lives in Montecito and although her house was fine, her street was completely blocked up with mud and water. She was stuck in her house for almost a week and it was strange not being able to see her at school. She would text me while I was in science or English and say that they had found another body on her street. It was stressful for her and she was anxious that she couldn’t go anywhere. They finally were able to get out and are now staying in hope ranch but it was really weird at first for her to be literally stuck in her own home.
My fire experience was kind of strange over the winter break. We were put on involuntary evacuation a couple of times, so we had to pack our bags and get ready to go. Luckily though, we didn’t have to evacuate from our house. In our house, we have a tower and if you go to the top, you could see the fire and smoke.
The Montecito mudslide had a big affect on my family. My mom’s best friend lost her closest friend to the mudslide. She was in the voluntary evacuation area of Montecito. My mom’s best friend, Diane, was on the news being interviewed about how she was affected. I knew the woman that died. Her name was Josie Gower. My family and I were also affected from the closing of the 101 freeway. My mom travels to LA for work and had to take the train which is a hassle.
I wasn’t affected that much by the fire and flood, but I had relatives that were stuck in LA that couldn’t get to Santa Barbara during the flood.
When the fire came we had to evacuate for about one week and we were stuck in the hotel for pretty much the entire time because of the smoke outside. Then the flood came and we stayed at our house and the next morning we thought that nothing was really wrong from what we could tell because we didn’t have any power and couldn’t watch the news. But as the days passed and we went to school and gathered more information we realized what a big tragedy this was.
The Montecito mudslide was a tragic incident that left many affected. I was grateful that none of my family or friends were injured during the mudslide. one of my close friends was affected, she had to deal with a close friend and that lost her life, Josie Gower. I didn’t know her personally but she was a kind hearted lady, and an amazing friend. That affected my close friend and her family.
With the fire being followed directly by the mudslides, everyone is a mess. I had to evacuate for about 13 days to Newport beach with my family and live in a small apartment, and when we returned to our house, it was coated in layers of ash. The mudslides that followed was a lot less chaotic for my family, it was more that our friends were affected. A plethora of people that we know have lost their homes, some even losing family members. I even lost a few friends, and it seems so surreal that they’re gone. No anticipated the mudslides , mostly because they were too preoccupied with recovering their homes from the fire damage.
During the Thomas fire I was in not in mandatory evacuation for the first week or two then when the wind picked up and the fire was near Santa Barbara, my family and I evacuated. We were gone for about two days because the ash was really bad and we didn’t want to breath it. We were in Pismo. When we figured out that the fire was really close to my house and my house was in mandatory evacuation so we had to drive back to Santa Barbara to get all of our important things then we drove back to Pismo. After a about 4 days we went back to Santa Barbara. Eww thought that the fire was find and we stayed at my house for a couple of days but the fire got even closer and we had to go back to Pismo. We stayed in Pismo until December 22 when all of the evacuations in Santa Barbara were lifted.
The Thomas Fire impacted my life. I had to evacuate for over a week to my aunt’s house in Orange County. We had to take our things to storage so we had to get a police escort to our house. When we came back our house was full of ash.
I was not personally affected by the fire and floods. The holidays felt off and it wasn’t the same. There was a lot going on and my mom was scared because we were a block away from the voluntary fire evacuation. We have a lot of animals and it would of been very hard to get them out.
During the fire and the floods, I wasn’t really affected. But, during the fire, I went to my grandparents house up North because the air quality was bad. I stayed there until the air quality got better.
The fire affected me in the way that my house was fine, but we left to San Francisco to get away from the smoke. My house did not collapse, my family and I just evacuated. I was not majorly affected by the fire or flood but we do not regret leaving Santa Barbara.
Our class was affected in more ways than one. This is a very sad time for Santa Barbara, but everyone is doing their part to recover from this. It might take months, even years, for everything to get back to normal but were hoping for a quick bounce back. Our community is strong and were hoping for sunny skies!