Tea Fire aftermath



I just put up a gallery of shots I took as the sun was going down today, and the evacuation barricades were lifted — at least from some of the Tea Fire burn area.

The aerial shot above is from the excellent Live Search Maps. If you want to look around, the top shot is in this view here.

Most of my shots were after the sun went down, so they’re not the best. But they reveal some of what went on at the western edge of the fire perimeter.

Most of the houses north of Sheffield Reservoir (which is now buried beneath a park) were spared. But many along Gibraltar, El Cielito and West Mountain Road (such as the one above, a beautiful house with a view across a pool and Parma Park) were burned. It wrenched my heart to see residents visiting some of these homes. They weren’t all “mansions”, as the out-of-town media called them. Many were not even especially upscale. But most were beautiful, and all were in a beautiful setting. And they were homes. They contained the lives of their residents. Lives that will have to start over in many ways.

We know people who lost homes here. Our hearts go out to them.

One thing that amazed me was how good a job the firefighters did protecting many homes in this area. One official said it would have been reasonable to expect to lose 500 or more homes in a fire like this one.

I head back to the place our kid calls “alt.home” or “shift_home” in Boston tomorrow. Meanwhile I am appreciating every minute I’m here.

Meanwhile, here’s a thankful shout-out to the firefighters who did their best to save what they could. Which happens to be the rest of Santa Barbara.

Bonus pic: Here’s exactly the same area, after the Sycamore Canyon fire in 1977.

[Later…] I’m on a pit stop at the Starbucks Coffee & Reggae Disco in King City, where the music is so loud that people go outside to talk on their cell phones. Just did that myself.

It was weird to hit SCAN on the rental car radio and have it stop at 87.7, where KSBY/Channel 6 in San Luis Obispo was running a live press conference on the Tea Fire from Santa Barbara. I stayed with it until the signal gave out around San Ardo. Meanwhile, here’s what I picked up that matters: Homes were lost on the folowing roads:

  • Coyote Road
  • Coyote Circle
  • East Mountain Drive
  • West Mountain Drive
  • El Cielito
  • Gibraltar Road
  • Las Alturas Road
  • Orizaba Road
  • Orizaba Lane
  • Conejo Road
  • Stanwood Road
  • Sycamore Canyon Road
  • Ealand Place (not sure, but I think so)
  • Mt. Calvary Road (including the Monastery and Retreat Center)
  • Westmont Road/Circle Drive (not clear about this, but I believe so)

They said 210 structures were lost. More than 5000 homes were evacuated across a large area outside the fire perimeter, ours among them.

Only residents with government-issued IDs will be let into the main burn areas: Mountain Road, Conejo, Coyote, a few others.

Okay, hitting the road again. Next stop, SFO. Then BOS and back to work.

[Later…] I’m at SFO now. No time to say more than to look at this map, this City 2.0 summary, and these images and headlines.

Oh, and look at this. It’s the same scene after the 1977 Sycamore Fire. Some home sites have burned three times: In the 1964 Coyote Fire, the Sycamore Fire, and now the Tea Fire.

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11 Responses to Tea Fire aftermath

  1. Doc, I am so happy you didn’t get wiped out. You have no idea how hard I was thinking about you (I don’t know how to pray) this weekend.

  2. Doc Searls says:

    Thanks, Francine. Much appreciated.

    It’s interesting how, in the midst, one does not pray for one’s self. It seemed terribly egotistical to do that when hundreds of neighbors were living through nightmares. Yet pray I did. Including one of thanks for the grace of our home’s survival. And the truly amazing job that firefighters did of containing a blaze that years before might easily have wiped out much of the town.

    I mean, I don’t doubt that 1990 technology and firefighting organization would have allowed many more homes to burn — quite likely including ours.

    Read the last paragraph here.

  3. Jim Parsons says:

    Glad you guys are OK and thoughts with your effected friends and neighbors.

    Boston.com’s Big Picture http://bit.ly/wv84

  4. Pam says:

    Don (you remember Donald Burr) and I are so happy to see that your home was unaffected! The media reports, which were implying the fire affected only the superrich who would somehow not feel the loss of their homes, were very upsetting to have to cope with while searching for genuine timely information about the fire. I am so sorry for everyone who lost their home. It puts my own troubles (Don was a victim of downsizing on the 13th and tech work seems to have vanished; I have lupus and won’t do well living in the car or something crazy like that!) into perspective and reminds me to never feel sorry for myself. I wonder if there is something being done as a community for those whose beautiful homes and cherished possessions which held memories were destroyed. These fires are tragedies always.

  5. Doc Searls says:

    Hi, Pam. (And Don.)

    I’m sorry to hear about your situations, and moved by your compassion for those whose losses are real regardless of the castes in which others place them.

    I don’t know much about what’s being done in the community — but only because I am physically not there. I was there for the end of the fire’s worst on Thursday night, and for the immediate aftermath, only because when we got news of it I happened to be in the Bay Area for a conference, and immediately drove down.

    These days we’re living mostly in what our kid calls “alt.home” or SHIFT_HOME in Massachusetts, while I pursue a fellowship there. We return to our home in Santa Barbara as often as we can, while locals have been looking after it in the meantime.

    I am sure, however, that there are plenty of efforts to help. The day I left, last Sunday, the main topic in our little church community was the fire, and what individuals and various groups were doing to help.

    Santa Barbara is more of a town than a city. I doubt that anybody who lost a home was more than two degrees away from anybody who didn’t. We’ve only been residents there since 2001, and know two families who were immediately affected — one who lost a home and one whose home survived (though not in livable shape) while all their neighbors were burned out.

    It’s still early in the process of following up, and helping out. I follow what’s going on mostly through this page on Edhat, and see many good signs there.

    My best to you both. It’ll be good to see you when we return.

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  9. Emily Weaver says:

    Hello. I am a student at Brooks Institute of Photography Film school. I lost my home a year ago in the huge fires in San Diego county. I am in a documentary class and hope to document a family’s recovery from the recent fires. It would not be an invasion of privacy, just filming interviews and shooting some of the rebuilding process. I am going through this myself just in an advanced stage so I would not be insensitive. I still need to find a family that would be interested. If you know anyone who would be willing to help me they can contact me at my email: haflababy@gmail.com. Thank you

  10. Doc Searls says:


    I’ll ask around. The people I know who were affected by the fire probably wouldn’t qualify, but I’m not sure. Meanwhile, are you at Brooks in Santa Barbara? If so, there is already a lot of re-building going on there. I see some people are living in small camping trailers on their property. You might just try going up to some of the construction folks and asking around, or knocking on the doors of some of the trailers.

    Good luck,


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