Monday, November 17, 2008

Santa Barbara Tea Fire

Last week Santa Barbara caught on fire again. It happens a couple of time a year. Earlier this year we had the Zaca fire. This one is known as the Tea Fire because it started near the Tea House in Montecito.

Brody and I were playing outside with Melina. It was a really warm night. I'm still not sure if the heat was from the fire or if it was the Santa Anas which were blowing thru but at about 5PM I remember asking remarking about what felt like a wall of hot air. At 5:30PM you could see the smoke. At 6pm you could see the flames above the homes on the Riviera.

Our entire neighborhood was in the street...with their adult beverages...enjoying the view. I on the other had was in full panic mode. One of our neighbors has lived in his home for over 30 years and remembered the last time this fire happened. He told us the fire reached the top of our street which only freaked me out more. By 7PM the flames were huge. Homes were clearly being engulfed, palm trees were popping and propane tanks were erupting with huge bangs.

We managed to get Mia and Brody in bed but I am pretty sure they could feel my panic vibes because both of them decided to go bananas. Brody was sacked out until he woke up suddenly and loudly screaming about shin pains. And Mia cried for an hour before deciding to finally give up. Meanwhile (and between shushing Mia) I was gathering all of our valuables.

Our valuables turned out to be mostly photos. Wedding photos, professional photos of the kids, scrapbooks and the boxes of snapshots taken over the past 7 years. And packing clothes for a couple of days. And all of Brody's Christmas presents! It took about an hour to completely pack up. I also felt completely compelled to clean the kitchen. I was NOT going to have my house burn down w/a messy kitchen! It was probably just an attempt at controlling something when I felt so completely out of control.

All the while we're watching the local news realizing that hundreds of homes are being devastated just over the hill.
The smoke was becoming really thick. Our eyes were stinging and we were worrying about the kids being exposed to the smoke. Around 10:30PM the police SUV (which I've never seen before?) turned onto our street notifying residents of the evacuation orders. Well, that did it for us. You say "GO"; we go! Many of our neighbors were laughing it off but we weren't going to stick around with danger this close.

Earlier in the week Brody wanted to rent the Elmo Visits the Firehouse from the library. I knew he'd get bored quickly but we rented it. He watched it twice and we talked the whole time about "get out of the house", "stay low", etc. Of course this came to me the night of the fire. Did we watch that video together so he'd know what to do? Was my house going to burn down tonight? We had to leave.

Our precious friend's, Sharon and Jono, invited us to stay at their house so at 11PM we loaded up the kids and took off to Carpinteria. We ended up staying there for two nights even though our house/neighborhood was unharmed. The air was thick with smoke and the Santa Ana winds continued to make the still-burning fires a danger. We came home on Saturday and rested. Thankful for our safety and for good friends.

Our hearts are breaking for the many families who lost so much. For the Westmont students who left campus with none of their things and have nowhere to return. For Westmont faculty who lost their homes in a moment. Please remember these people and Westmont College in your prayers tonight.

The best way to help faculty is by sending gift cards (grocery stores, clothing stores, department stores, hardware stores, etc.) to:

Warren Rogers, Academic Dean
Faculty Fire Donation
955 La Paz Rd
Santa Barbara, CA 93108

For student donations:

Jane Higa, Dean of Students
Student Fire Donation
955 La Paz Rd
Santa Barbara, CA 93108
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