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Friday, May 8, 2009

SANTA BARBARA'S RAGING FIRE --- THE THIRD IN 10 MONTHS

Thank You

Prof bug thanks those who've sent emails inquiring about his family's status in Santa Barbara, where a blazing fire in the high country --- climbing steeply up the canyons and their slope-ridges four miles inland, no further, toward the jagged ridge-line atop the Santa Ynez mountains --- started on Tuesday.  We evacuated on Tuesday evening, and since then, we've been joined by about 25,000 other evacuees in the Santa Barbara area. 

Fortunately, 

All of us, the 25,000 evacuees --- more than a quarter of the S.B. population --- are fine.  Those who evacuated earlier are staying with friends in safer zone or the large number of hotels and motels that fill the Santa Barbara area.  Dozens of shelters have been opened for those who can't find any more lodging of this sort, and --- according to the news announcement --- several thousand have had to find hotel lodging either in the Ventura area 30 miles down the coast or up the coast and inland in the northern part of Santa Barbara County. 

Fortunately, too,  all the hotels and motels charge evacuee rates, not to mention that fire-insurance should cover the costs as well.  We're staying in a plush 5-star hotel across the street from the beach near downtown that ordinarily charges $740 a day.  Our rate: $129.  Very decent, no?  And the less expensive motels and hotels charge about $99.

More Good Fortune

Santa Barbarans are accustomed to evacuations.  Last November, we had to evacuate for a fire that started in the lower mountain areas and headed toward our house, which is about 400 feet above downtown in the steep Riviera hills cut by canyons in several places.  That fire stopped a few hundred feet above us, and in the end it burned out with about 150 houses destroyed, with only one fatality (a heart attack) and no serious injuries to anyone else. 

Last summer, in Goleta --- which starts about 7 miles from downtown S.B. and runs for about 6 miles (including the UCSB on the coast) --- the Gap fire raged for several days in the high country, but no structures were lost.

The worst fire we experienced was in 1978, which also started in the high country above us and forced an evacuation as well.  It destroyed almost 1000 houses, but with no fatalities.

Our Community Services and Firefighters Deserve Admiration

Those who live in the Riviera hills --- including equivalent hills along the coast in Montecito and behind Santa Barbara out into Goleta --- have practiced evauation drills, organized by volunteers with city cooperation.  The community services, official and voluntary like the Red Cross, have prepared for disasters over the decades now. 

The same is true of our Fire-department.  It has agreements with other departments down to San Diego and up into the San Francisco Bay area for mutual help.  Right now, there are over 400 fire-trucks and 1500 or so professional Firefighters on hand.  Several hundred sheriff's and police officials from other communities have arrived too, to help control the abandoned areas and prevent looting. 

The police are needed.  Back in the 1978 evacuation, we no sooner left at around midnight --- flames 100 feet high only two blocks away and higher up roaring then --- than a neighbor, who worked for the city, was making the rounds on our short dead-end street that looks over a steep canyon, saw a car pull up our long driveway and three men get out . . .  predatory looters on the loose.  He was carrying his shotgun, walked fearlessly up the driveway and around to the back, caught them just in the process of forcing our door open, and fired a round in the air.  He told them to get out, made sure they did, taking their license plate and reporting it the next day to the police.

Then, as the fire neared our street --- just a hundred feet above us --- he was satisfied that everyone had evacuated and left with his wife.  Wonderful neighbors, right?

We're Planning To Stay at the Hotel Until ...

next week, making sure that our reservations are intact for that date.  If the fire is under control earlier, we can leave earlier.  If not, well at least we can always renew our reservation into the future.  

The problem with a fire like this as it moves up the steep canyons to the jagged ridge line of the Santa Ynez mountains is the gusty winds that can blow generally at times in the whole area --- but more especially because there are local gusts at times that just normal sunshine creates on warm days.  The heat rises, especially as the evening comes along.  That creates a sort of low-pressure area underneath the heat, which in turn creates something of vacuum that sets off strong hot winds.  The current fire has been fed by both sorts of fires.  Last night, the winds up in the mountain area were up to 60 miles and hour, spreading the fire out toward Goleta.  Meanwhile, on the beach where we were staying --- just three or four miles away --- the temperature was in the low seventies by 8:00 PM and dropped even further.   And today, the temperature throughout the city is the usual low seventies . . . in the summer a high temperature around 80 degrees and in the winter a low temperature at night in the 40's. 

Again, thank you for your inquiries.