I've been traumatized! Without belaboring you with news that you have already heard, suffice it to say I was in Santa Barbara when the Jesusita Fire broke out. I had only just arrived at my parent's house an hour or so before the first of the helicopters were heard overhead. Holy cow ~ it's just over the hillside beyond Laurel Reservoir.
We were placed almost immediately in mandatory evacuation status and I'm going to impart a few tips that I learned on my sojourn as a wildfire evacuee.
8 Tips for the Wildfire Evacuee
As an aside, in case you haven't noticed, it's hot and dry out there. These wildfires are becoming more invasive and causing more destruction than ever before. Someone you know will likely be effected in the next few years. I hope you will take these tips seriously.
1. If you have prearranged where to meet family or friends in an emergency you need to have 2 or 3 back-up meeting places. You might find, as we did, that your initial meeting place is inaccessible due to road blocks or other unforeseen factors. This is where well laid plans start to fall apart.
2. Cell phones require power to work. If you don't have a car charger for your phone, get one. Having your phone go dead in an emergency is highly undesirable.
3. Keep a small phone book in your purse/wallet at all times. Phone numbers and addresses you think you know by heart will quite possibly desert you under periods of high stress.
4. Don't rely on TV or Radio coverage if you are in or near the disaster area. Emergency personnel are stretched thin and the news (particularly on AM radio) is outdated. Go outside and look around for yourself. Talk to people and make your own assessment of the current situation on the ground. Wildfires are dynamic and you might find that you need to relocate to a safer place.
5. Wildfires are unpredictable and can circle back to areas where you don't expect them. Burned-out area are covered with smouldering embers that can flare back to life when the wind blows. These in turn set homes on fire and can ignite any unburned brush in the area. Which reminds me, close all windows before leaving your house to prevent embers from blowing inside.
6. You need a safe place to wait it out. If you are a camping family (which we are) it's nice to have a motor home at your disposal. Know that if you opt for an evacuation center you might be there for days without much in the way of amenities. Hotels are nice, if they have room and if you can afford the rate (this cost might be reimbursable by your homeowner insurance). Although it's tempting to stay near your home you are best served by removing yourself from the danger zone.
7. At a minimum always keep plenty of bottled water in your car along with some pet food.
8. Throughout it all it's important to keep your sense of fun. You will be happy to know that on Wednesday (day 2) before things went horribly awry, I managed a quick visit to Cardigans Knit Shop and I bought some gorgeous yarn (a skein each of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino dk and Classic Elite Yarns Miracle) to knit some cute fingerless mitts for next Fall!
The following are a few of the pictures that I took during the course of the fire.
This is our first view of the fire which began approximately 1.8 miles from my parent's house. We were only mildly concerned at first. After all, it seemed small and an aerial water attack was already underway.
The next morning it was quiet in the area and the fire seemed far away and well in hand. We expected to return to the house sometime that day and decided to wait for the "all clear" in Stevens Park a small local park situated in San Roque Canyon below the bridge. Merely a stone's throw from my parent's home. It seemed a very convenient place to wait. But for an odd car here or there we had the park to ourselves.
But when I went outside about 4:00 p.m. to walk Mr Puffy I looked up into the sky and saw an alarming sight. Large booming smoke clouds were quickly converging on our location.
We decided to relocate to an evacuation point. The following pictures are taken in the San Roque area as we are leaving Steven's Park on Wednesday afternoon to relocate to the First Presbyterian Church (our prearranged meeting place) which, incidental, turned out to be blocked off (see Evacuee Tip No. 1 above).
At this point things became quite stressful. I quote "Last night, all hell broke loose," Santa Barbara Fire Chief Andy Dimizio said. Today "We saw the fire spread laterally across the top of the city … to almost five square miles." I believe these pictures bear out his assessment.
This is a home near Steven's Park in the San Roque area.
These photos are looking back at lower Santa Barbara foothills (in the San Roque area) from Peabody Elementary School.
Below is a picture of La Cumbre Plaza (in the Vons parking lot) on Thursday night. The night that I was told by news crews that my parent's canyon was burning.
At one point more than 30,000 of Santa Barbara's 90,000 residents were in evacuee status.
I want everyone to know that I appreciate your concern and well wishes. My parent's home miraculously survived with the intervention of the brave and courageous firefighters who lined up 10 fire engines on their street Thursday night and held the line.
My parents are doing great and Mr Puffy was a trouper throughout. But a reminder to all how what begins as a small fire can level a city. It is time for Californians to rethink how we combats these wildfires and come up with a more innovative approach.