Things have changed so quickly that since starting this post a few minutes ago I have managed to rather severely bury the lede. Bloggers are not reporters, as it turns out. Most of you reading are not in an emergency situation so you have the luxury of wasting time on the first paragraphs. If you are in Santa Barbara County, nothing matters except the last ones.
The Thomas Fire has thus far claimed two lives, 259,00 acres, 746 single-family residences with damage to more than a thousand additional residences and is now the third largest wildfire recorded in modern California history.
Last week, the fire was still in Ventura County and I was fatuously comparing it to my root canal. That night, the flames poured into Santa Barbara County, our power went out a dozen times and at 3 a.m. we had refugees from Carpinteria on our doorstep. There had been a knock at their door, and a shout to “Get out NOW!”. The last thing they saw as they rushed away was a sea of flames licking at the edge of their property.
For the past week, their fire became our fire, with several agonizing days of waiting to learn for certain that their home had survived. It did, thanks to a merciful God and the incredibly heroic firefighters who literally held a line in front of their home. Our friends were finally allowed back in yesterday and this is the photo they shared of their hillside:
It is a war zone. It is the longest ever duration of a Red Flag Warning, indicating extreme fire danger, since the warnings were initiated back in 2004. Air quality is so poor that people are wearing masks indoors and out.
Firefighters have doggedly set back burns, trying to stem the tide:
Photographer Jim Stoicheff (@studiostoicheff) captured this dramatic pic from the Santa Barbara waterfront last Tuesday evening:
For the past several days, the focus in Santa Barbara County has been a desperate attempt to hold the front end of the fire in the hills behind Montecito. This morning, the winds gusted to a reported 40-60 m.p.h. and all bets are off. Power and internet access are out in parts of Santa Barbara and mandatory evacuation orders have just extended all the way to Highway 154 to the west above Highway 192. Local news station KEYT anchor Joey Buttitta (@Joey_Buttita) tweeted around 8:50 a.m. PST: “THIS IS NO JOKE. If you live in Montecito area LEAVE. EVACUATE. The #ThomasFire is moving fast. GET OUT.”
It has jumped San Ysidro over to Hot Springs and Cold Springs Canyon. Mission Canyon in Santa Barbara is next, and if this beast moves south of 192 it will be an unprecedented calamity. I wish I was exaggerating but I’m not.
We are safe. We are actually a hundred plus miles to the south visiting adorable grandchildren and breathing some clean air, but ready to pack and leave at a moment’s notice.
And we are praying for Santa Barbara. If you are the praying sort, this – right now – would be a good time to offer one up on our behalf.
The scene right now above Montecito, per KEYT: