Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Santa Barbara Gap Fire

Just after my husband left for violent movie night with his buddies and Angelina Jolie, I thought I could smell something burning. My daughter and I sniffed around our home and couldn’t detect the source. Then my Dad called and asked if I know where the fire was located. He said I should see the helicopter with the basket of water underneath it soon. He said it was heading my way. I could hear the chopper over the phone, but I didn’t see it overhead. We live about 3 miles apart.

Around 8 pm, my daughter came home from the gym to say the flames were easily visible directly from nearby Costco. Still, it was too close. Air assaults were halted until morning. The area is too rugged to fight in the dark. The rocky area doesn’t allow for fire breaks made by bull dozers. Thank goodness the winds were light and the humidity was up. I had to go see for myself exactly where the fire is located, so I decide I need to run to Albertson’s for Diet Coke.

People are milling around the parking lot looking up into the foothills. The orange flames are enthralling in the night sky. Bursts of bright columns shoot up beyond the tallest trees and you knew you would hear an explosion if you were closer. Those of us who lived through the Painted Cave fire are filled with dread. On June 27th, 1990, the flames from the same vicinity came down the hills in 90 minutes. They were pushed by sundowner winds with ambient temperatures around 103o F. I also remember well the Sycamore Fire in 1977. A loud boom would sound every time another eucalyptus tree ignited. A riveting website History of Santa Barbara Wildfires ( details the fires birth, the fire fight and personal accounts of these fires.

It is time to look for the news and to tune into the stations of choice for Emergency Public Information. Areas west of Turnpike should be on alert. OK. That’s where I live. That is where my Dad lives. That is the center of my universe. OK, this is a good opportunity for a “for real drill.” Even if I do not evacuate, as a veterinarian and non-traditional responder I might be called to assist with the animal component of the evacuation. I had been in the process of preparing to go to another out of county fire and now I am glad the order was canceled.

All pets locked up and their pet’s evacuation supplies brought out of the shed. Personal needs are packed. Computers are backed up. Photos in plastic tubs but my wedding album isn’t there. Where is it? I converted all the video tapes to DVDs, where are they. Of course, right where I put them. Turn the cars around to face outward. We head to the gas station to fill-up the Blazer. Lots of other folks are doing the same thing.

Mandatory evacuation is called for Glen Annie and La Patera Canyons. The rest of us should keep watch and keep the land line free for the reverse 911 call. Ahh! That’s a reason to keep that land line. It just depends on what the winds do. They could spring up until 2 am. We check with our friends and neighbors to know that everyone is aware and has a plan. Yvonne is out of town, but where are her dogs Marley and Roscoe? They are staying with a friend out of harm’s way. My daughter is moving out in the next two weeks so she decided to just pack now.
At 1:30 am we drive by the local High School to see the fire trucks that are arriving. They are backing in, creating a line of 7 trucks so far. There are two pick-ups with horse trailers at the other end of the parking lot. The Red Cross Evacuation Center at San Marcus High will take small pets in crates. Large animal evacuees have a hotline to call for assistance. I see a number of horse trailers are heading up into the canyons. The Santa Barbara Equine evacuation team has drilled for this moment and is well prepared.

9 AM and the fire has burned about 250 acres and is 0% contained. Summer school at Dos Pueblos High has been canceled since it is now a staging area. For the moment, the winds are now blowing away from my home. More Cal Fire resources are on their way. The Army Reserves have been called up.

News links:

No comments: