An article in the Santa Barbara Independent extols the reasons why local residents should get off the couch and explore the “cornucopia of delights” that the “perfectly paced El Niño rains and sunny days” have brought to the Santa Barbara foothills in the areas where the Jesusita, Gap, and Tea fires burned over the last 18 months. Here is an excerpt:
…Not long removed from the hell fires of the past 18 months, these places are growing back with a vengeance, the green glow of new growth more vibrant and glowing than even the most wicked, chemical-fed lawn of Montecito.
The twist of fire charred trees and backdrop of freshly exposed rock faces only double this effect, turning these familiar routes into new and impressively redone friends. Swaths of sun-soaked lupines and California poppies are but one part of the colorful symphony in full bloom — monkey flower, blue dick, Indian paintbrush, and the intoxicating hummingbird sage all are singing their hearts out, as well. If ever there were a case to be made for the renewing power of wildfire, it is now, and it is on full and undeniable display in our backyard.
Beyond the sights and sounds of the standard hikes lay even more rewarding semi-secret slices of nature. Give a bit more sweat to your adventure or rock scramble in a new direction and you will be rewarded with pristine pools, slippery water slides carved by the graceful hand of Mother Nature, and moments of long-lost serenity that last for hours.
Take off your clothes, let your pale bare feet dig into the warm rock, and lay your body down beside the rhythmic splash and sploosh of a waterfall. A lone manzanita tree cuts a particularly bonsai profile on a rock outcropping to the west, but for some reason you have not noticed it until now. Breathing deep, you sigh with exhilaration at this realization and let yourself melt deeper into the rock. The odd cirrus cloud blows across the infinite blue canvas above as you laze somewhere between sleep and meditation — your ears grooving to a menagerie of sound so rich and layered you are left with no choice but to surrender into it.
It was a year ago yesterday that the Jesusita fire started near Santa Barbara, California. It burned out of control for several days and blackened 8,733 acres, destroyed 160 structures, and damaged 17 others. There were four burn overs of firefighters. Yes, four burn overs. Not one burn over of four firefighters, but four separate, distinct, burn over incidents.
Two men have been accused of linked with starting last May’s Jesusita Fire near Santa Barbara, California and charged with using weed eaters without a “hot work” permit. The fire burned 8,733 acres, destroyed 160 structures, and damaged 17 others.
Allegedly, Craig William Ilenstine, 50, and Dana Neil Larsen, 45, according to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office:
“…had not obtained a hot work permit as required by law, and neither person took the requisite precautions of watching or having someone else watch the area where they worked for at least thirty minutes after they finished using their weed cutters, to make sure they did not leave any smoldering areas.”
If convicted, the men could face $25,000 in fines and up to 90 days in jail, in addition to restitution for the costs of suppressing the fire.
The Santa Barbara Independent has a lengthy article about this issue. Apparently it is very unusual for anyone to have a “hot work” permit when they are doing trail maintenance, as it appears Mr. Ilenstine and Mr. Larsen were doing.
UPDATE @ 9:00 a.m. December 12
According to another article in the Santa Barbara Independent, the two men are not being charged with starting the fire, only with operating equipment without a “hot work” permit. It is a very confusing situation, in that they are not being charged with starting the fire, but if convicted of the permit violation, the District Attorney may seek damages, in which case he will have to prove causation between the use of the weed eater and the start of the fire.
The District Attorney, in a press conference, when asked if the weed eater had a metal blade rather than nylon string, said “That would be the case”. He said when a weed eater has a metal blade a “hot work” permit is required.
We have a copy of the summary report, or “Green Sheet”, of the burnovers that occurred on the Jesusita fire on May 6 near Santa Barbara, California. The report is on our Documents page.
It is an amazing read, providing details and maps of the serious accident in which three firefighers were seriously burned, and five other “near miss” incidents.
Here is the Summary from the report:
On the afternoon of Wednesday, May 6, 2009, several engine companies assigned to structure protection on the Jesusita Fire, North of the City of Santa Barbara, experienced extreme fire behavior related to the surfacing of strong down slope (sundowner) winds typical of the area. This sudden increase in fire behavior resulted in the burn over of a Ventura County engine company, causing burns and smoke inhalation to the engine crew members, and major damage to the fire engine.
During this same fire behavior event, several other engine companies and overhead personnel were required to take refuge in structures and apparatus. This event resulted in significant damage to one Type One engine, minor damage to three Type One engines, destroyed two light duty vehicles, and minor injuries to fire personnel.
CalFire has released the “Blue Sheet” or preliminary report about four burn overs that occurred on the Jesusita fire last week. We were aware of the one in which firefighters took refuge in a structure and suffered burns. Two of them remain hospitalized at Grossman Burn Center near Los Angeles.
But it turns out that there were four burn over incidents that involved firefighters sheltering in structures or their vehicles.
This Preliminary Summary Report is intended as an aid in accident prevention, and to provide factual information from the first 24 hours of the accident review. To that end it is published and distributed within a short time frame. Information contained within may be subject to revision as further investigation is conducted, and other reports and documents are received.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, May 6, 2009, several engine companies assigned to structure protection on the Jesusita Fire, North of the City of Santa Barbara, experienced extreme fire behavior related to the surfacing of strong down slope (sundowner) winds typical of the area. This sudden increase in fire behavior resulted in the burn over of a Ventura County engine company, causing burns and smoke inhalation to the engine crew members. During this same fire behavior event, several other engine companies and overhead personnel were required to take refuge in structures and apparatus. This event resulted in significant damage to two Type One engines, two light duty vehicles, and minor injuries to fire personnel.
Strike Team VNC 1580A was assigned to structure protection in the Spyglass Ridge Road area of Mission Canyon. One of the Engine Companies had deployed two attack lines around structures, and one line for engine protection. At approximately 1610 hrs, a strong down canyon wind spread the fire toward the structure. The firefighters retreated into the structure and were forced out when the structure became well involved. Three Firefighters were transported to the Grossman Burn Center in Sherman Oaks where the Firefighters were admitted for burns and smoke inhalation.
Strike Team LFD 1001A was assigned to structure protection in the Holly Road area of Mission Canyon. During the increased fire behavior, individuals assigned to two light duty vehicles took refuge inside structures. The two light duty vehicles were destroyed by fire. One minor eye injury was reported. The individual was treated and released at a local hospital. Civilians on Holly Road that chose to stay after the evacuation order was given remained in their home through the increased fire behavior event. These civilians were escorted from the area afterwards with no injuries and minor damage to the structure.
Strike Team LFD 1002A was assigned to structure protection in the Palomino Road area. Strike Team LAC 1240A responded from staging to assist Strike Team LFD 1002A. In the process of turning around one engine from Strike Team LAC 1240A, the fire behavior increased. The Engine Company attempted to defend the engine. As the fire behavior continued to increase, the Engine Company took refuge in the closest structure. The structure subsequently caught fire. The Engine Company escaped the structure without injury, returned to the Engine and exited the area. The engine sustained minor damage.
Strike Team XVE 1550A was assigned to structure protection in the Tunnel Road area. A Santa Paula Engine from the Strike Team was providing structure protection as the fire behavior increased. The Engine Company took refuge in a structure. Due to changing fire behavior the engine was repositioned and received minor damage while backing. An engine company from Ventura City, also assigned to the Strike Team, took refuge in their engine while engaged in structure protection in the same area. While inside the engine, fire shelters were taken from the plastic containers but not deployed. No injuries occurred.
Recommendations For Immediate Corrective Actions
Assure resources assigned to staging are fully briefed on current and expected weather and fire behavior.
Have communications broadcast significant changes in fire weather.
Insure all personnel utilize appropriate PPE at all times.