On Thursday night, November 13th, I came around the hill to find the foothills above Santa Barbara on fire. My heart sank… The Tea Fire had begun. The fire looked to be close to home, so I hauled ass back to the house in time to grab some belongings and my pet. I was lucky I left work early and was able to get back to the house before the fire came roaring down the hill. As I left, hot embers and fire surrounded the house. I was certain the house was lost.
The story of the weekend was alcohol consumption and awaiting news, any news of whether or not the house made it. What else is there to do? Being in this situation is an experience that no one should have to go through. I kept thinking of things I left behind only to imagine them go up in flames. Stress is an understatement.
Then, word spread that a few houses made it through the fire and that mine was one of them. I was so happy, but then the waiting began. When would officials open up the area so I can see for myself that the house was still there? From all of the stories I was hearing and pictures of our humble neighborhood, I really couldn’t believe that a single house made it through the inferno.
We were finally able to return home to utter devastation. Driving along Mountain Drive toward Coyote Rd I was speechless. I knew people who lived in the area and everything was just gone… our neighborhood was reduced to a desert-scape of ash and dirt. Stunning.
Coming around the corner to my house, I was amazed. The house was still standing with minimal damage to the main structure. The north end of the property went up in flames, consuming the patio gate, the tool shed, and half the tree. In the back, there is a foot diameter hole in the middle of the deck where an ember had started a fire, but was put out. The fire burned up to the garage and blackened the stucco. Clearly a fire crew had been at the house, fighting the hurricane force wind driven fire, saving the house. We are one of only two houses in that area that pulled through.
The neighbors above us, below us, and to the side, all burned to the ground. Living at the house is quite depressing… ghost houses surround us and at night it is so dark and quiet, it is erie. In all 210 homes burned to the ground, with countless more damaged.
The Tea Fire started from a bon-fire that a group of Santa Barbara City College students started at the Tea Garden, above Westmont College. The saddest part is that this devastating fire could have been avoided. These students are just plain stupid… they went into a know fire hazard area where high winds were predicted and started a fire that quickly got out of control. I hope the justice system works and all ten of them have their wages garnished for the rest of their lives paying for their stupidity and then get locked in prison for life. Stupid, stupid, stupid…