The past few weeks have been absolutely devastating for my home community of Santa Barbara, CA. Our normally quiet, friendly, and calm town was hit by the largest tragedies I’ve ever seen so close to home- a massive wildfire followed by unstoppable mudslides.
Throughout December, the Thomas Fire tore through Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and destroyed over 1,000 structures while claiming the lives of two people- becoming the largest wildfire in recorded California history.
A couple of weeks ago, before the Thomas Fire was even done burning, fast, powerful rains brought the freshly burned hillsides cascading down in an instant. Montecito, an area right below the burn scar, was hit the hardest by the mudslides, and hundreds of homes that were narrowly saved from the fires were completely demolished by mud, boulders, and trees.
After the dust settled, over 20 people lost their lives, and hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed. The freeway barely opened yesterday, and many Montecito residents are still unable to return home due to debris on the streets.
Living in such a serene place, it’s easy to forget about how quickly disaster can strike and turn an entire community upside down. Although my house is on the opposite side of town, I know many people that lost their homes or family members, and it’s been such an eye-opening experience for me. The amount of collaboration and community support has been the one bright spot in all of this. Signs thanking the firefighters line the streets, and volunteers are doing everything they can to help evacuated people.
Make sure to appreciate everything you have and the important people in your life because you never know what surprises Mother Nature will bring. These disasters have been absolutely terrible, and I can only hope that the remaining clean-up efforts go as quickly as possible.