thomas fire

Media star and Montecito resident Oprah Winfrey, along with Beanie Baby billionaire Ty Warner, have professed their thanks to first responders after the Thomas Fire and Montecito Mudflow.

They held a private party and dinner at the San Ysidro Ranch in the Montecito foothills last weekend for more than 100 firefighters and special guests at the exclusive location.

It’s a warm, sunny morning, and a stream of water less than a yard wide trickles down Montecito Creek, just off of East Valley Road in Montecito. It is deceivingly peaceful, almost serene here. Less than a hundred feet away, Mary Beth Myers walks under a cluster of sycamore and oak trees. This is where her cottage once stood, an area called Old Spanish Town, where a cluster of small homes were washed away by the January 9th storm.

They were back to back disasters. First, there was the Thomas Fire. Then, there was the Montecito debris flow. While the immediate crisis is over, thousands of Ventura and Santa Barbara County residents are still struggling with its aftermath, as they deal with destroyed and damaged homes. In Santa Barbara County, a new effort is underway to help fire and flood victims who are overwhelmed with how to proceed with replacing, or repairing their homes.

In a corral just a short distance from downtown Ojai, a beautiful white horse is munching away on some grass.

The horse is named Tommy, and he’s one of the victims of the destructive Thomas brush fire, which ravaged parts of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.  He wandered around for days during the fire, dirty, hungry, and apparently abandoned by his owner.

A coalition of law firms has filed the latest in a barrage of lawsuits against a utility company over the Thomas Fire, and Montecito’s deadly debris flows. Attorneys and some victims gathered in Montecito to announce the latest suit against Southern California Edison.

A country music superstar who has a home in Santa Barbara County will do a benefit concert to help first responders involved with the Thomas Fire and flood.

Brad Paisley is going to host what’s being called the “Second Responders” benefit concert May 12th at the Santa Barbara Bowl.

A bank today announced it will give $750,000 to non-profit groups involved in Thomas Fire, and Montecito flood relief efforts.

Wells Fargo announced $75,000 grants to Women’s Economic Ventures, and the Ventura County Community Development Corporation. It will give $25,000 to Food Share.

Ventura County public safety officials have issued voluntary evacuation orders for some parts of the county impacted by the Thomas brush fire.

The voluntary orders include Matilija Canyon, Highway 33's North Fork Area, the Vista Fire Burn Area, and Nye Road in the Casitas Springs area.

The front-end costs for Santa Barbara County continue to carry a heavy price tag in the wake of two natural disasters.

The county has just issued a report that says it spent about $46 million in emergency response costs.

This is linked to the Thomas Fire in December and the Montecito Mudflow which began on January 9th.

Fires, and floods have forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes on the Central and South Coasts during the last year. In the wake of the Thomas Fire, and Southern Santa Barbara County flooding, public safety officials have been working hard to improve people’s preparedness. And, because we live in earthquake country, it’s an issue we all need to consider. But, what about the four legged members of our families?

Photo by National Disaster Search Dog Foundation

Many of the search dogs involved in the 1/9 Debris Flow rescue efforts in Santa Barbara County were trained in Ventura County before part of their training center was lost in the Thomas Fire.

The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation is a Santa Paula-based non-profit that rescues and trains dogs to find people buried alive in disasters. Its 125-acre National Training Center opened just three months before the Thomas Fire.

Ventura County officials say they are in the process of sending out reduced property tax bills, or refunds to Thomas Fire victims this week.

Assessors representing the County Assessor’s Office, the Auditor-Controller’s Office, and the Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office have so far inspected more than 3,000 properties. The reduced bills, or refunds are going to people who submitted claims for property tax relief due to fire damage.

Officials say refunds will be made to those who made the original payment.

The Thomas Fire, and flood have caused tragedy, and heartache. We’ve also seen some of the best in people, as communities have rallied to help victims. Events from concerts, to art shows have been planned to raise money. And, a number of relief funds have been created. If you want to help, it can almost be a confusing about figuring out the best way to give.

An effort is underway to help small businesses impacted by the Thomas fire, and debris flows. Some local and federal agencies have teamed up to host a series of events to let people know about available resources.

One of the best known professional soccer teams in the nation is set to play an exhibition game on the South Coast this week, and as part of the event it will make a major contribution to Thomas Fire and flood relief efforts.

The Los Angeles Galaxy will take on Fresno FC Thursday night in a preseason friendly match at UC Santa Barbara’s Harder Stadium.

Prior to the game, the team will host 75 first responders in a special thank-you event. The team has pledged $10,000 to the United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund.

Some residents are concerned about Valley Fever in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire and flooding. But the good news from the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is that the risk of infection is low.

Valley Fever is caused by a fungus that exists in two forms.  It grows as a mold inches beneath desert soil, and it also exists as a spore in the air.

A marketing makeover is underway for the Central Coast after the Thomas Fire and the Montecito mudflow disasters.

The top state tourism officials met with hotel, restaurant and other tourism leaders in Santa Barbara Thursday.

(CDFW photo)

It was a heartbreaking situation for wildlife biologists and veterinarians.

Two female adult black bears, and a mountain lion cub were caught in the Thomas Fire burn areas, and suffered serious burns to their paws.  But, thanks to some cutting edge experimental treatment, the animals have made a remarkable recovery.

(Caltrans District 5 photo)

Monday marks  the first full day of a major milestone in Santa Barbara County’s post flood recovery efforts, with Highway 101 reopened in Montecito.

A number of freeway on and offramps remain closed in the Montecito area, but traffic has been moving through the area well, aside from expected morning and afternoon backups.

The number of places where Thomas Fire, and flood victims can get aid, and information has expanded.

FEMA now has aid centers up and running in Ventura County.

The City of Ventura is looking at taking a number of emergency steps to help residents who lost their homes to the massive Thomas brush fire.

More than 500 homes in the city were destroyed by the 282,000 acre inferno.

(Photo by Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

Officials say they’re making a lot of progress towards clearing, and repairing Highway 101 in the wake of the huge January 9th storm which closed it between Carpinteria and Santa Barbara. But, they say as of Friday night, they aren't sure they'll reach a goal of reopening the freeway on Monday.

Caltrans District 5 Director Tim Gubbens says the mud and debris has been removed, and the focus is on clearing drainage systems and repairing damaged infrastructure.  He says they hope to have a better idea of when it will be ready to reopen on Saturday.

(Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara County)

Crews are continuing around the clock efforts in Santa Barbara County to clear Highway 101, and repair damaged roads and utilities in the wake of last week’s deadly flooding.

The death toll remains at 20, and searchers continue to look for three others still missing. 28 were hurt, including two still in critical condition at hospitals. Meanwhile, a center intended to provide one-stop assistance to fire and flood victims opened in Santa Barbara Wednesday.

Santa Barbara and Ventura County residents affecting by the Thomas Fire, and/or the flooding can now register for federal assistance through FEMA.

You can call 800-621-3362 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week to register. Disaster assistance ranges from help with rent, to essential home repairs. There are also grants for uninsured and underinsured personal property losses, and other serious disaster related needs not covered by insurance.

Over the last six weeks, the Thomas Fire followed by torrential flooding last week killed nearly two dozen people and destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes. But there are ways to cope with the devastation.

You may feel anxious, fearful, angry, confused or helpless after the recent natural disasters took a toll on the South Coast.

Firefighters say they now have full containment of the monster 282,000 acre Thomas brush fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, the inferno which set the stage for this week's flash flooding in Montecito.

The fire is the largest in modern day state history.  It started off of Highway 150 near Santa Paula December 4th, and led to two deaths and the loss of more than a thousand homes and other buildings.

(Photo by Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

The death toll has reached 15 from the massive flash flood and mudflow which tore through Montecito early Tuesday morning.

Some 500 firefighters, and other public safety workers are sifting through the debris of homes looking for survivors.  More than 50 people were rescued in the wake of the flooding, some of whom were trapped in the shattered homes.

(Photo by Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire department)

Thirteen people are dead, more than two dozen are hurt, and an unknown number are still missing after a waist-high wall of water and mud rolled through some homes in Montecito early Tuesday morning.

A number of houses were gutted, with rescuers pulling out people trapped under mountains of debris. Helicopters rescued some people who climbed onto the roofs of their homes to escape the torrent of water, and mud.

(Photo by Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

Five deaths have been confirmed as a result of flash floods, debris flows and mudslides in the Montecito area early Tuesday morning.

A number of homes were destroyed, or damaged as a result of the storm.

Firefighters, and other public safety workers also rescued a number of people, including a 14 year old girl who was trapped in the debris of a damaged home.  Helicopters were used as part of the rescue effort.

(Photo by Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

Highway 101 has been completely closed by flooding in the Montecito area Tuesday morning by the big storm hitting the Central and South Coasts, with authorities having to rescue some people trapped in their vehicles.

The flooding happened during the 5 a.m. hour.  The southbound 101 is closed at Milpas Street in Santa Barbara, and northbound the closure starts at Highway 126 in Ventura.  Thousands of vehicles on the 101 were diverted, and turned around in  the Rincon area.