My hometown has been on fire for the past day and a half; I've been watching it through my office window. It's been a rather surreal experience to see a natural disaster, so dangerous and so close, and not be able to do anything about it. Over the past 6+ years living in Santa Barbara, I've experienced wildfires, but nothing claiming so many homes that I could actually see from my front porch.
As Peter headed down the street to pick-up dinner Thurs. night, he came running back exclaiming, "Get on some shoes and get out here!" As we walked towards the street corner I saw the hillside engulfed in flames. Peter, Surf (our black lab) and I headed up the Carrillo hill where we stood with a large group watching booms of fire explode in the dark sky. The wildfire spread rapidly, hitting propane tanks and burning houses to the ground. My heart sank as I thought about the families those homes represented. By 7:30, we were sitting in the pitch dark on our front porch watching as the fire moved closer towards town. Power went out all over the city, leaving the glowing fire as the sole light source. Winds on Thurs. evening spread the fires so quickly that firefighters struggled to contain it. I nervously awoke many times Thurs. night to peer out my office window, knowing I was safe inside with my windows shut, but people just 2 miles away were evacuating their homes. I watched Thursday night's flames turn to a thick wall of gray smoke on the hillside Friday afternoon.
I am in awe, and so thankful to all those who are risking their lives to keep the community safe. The amazing fact is very few people have been hurt or lives lost. I am so thankful we live in a community where people value each other, life and love over possessions. Those I've seen interviewed and friends evacuated from their homes feel blessed and thankful to be safe with their loved ones at their side.
As I look out the window this morning, the smoke is clearing and the wind has shifted away from the city. So many have expressed concern, thoughts, and prayers to keep safe. I feel hopeful, and grateful we live in a community grounded in both support and perspective. We all love this place, and this tragedy is showing the wonderful side of humanity that is Santa Barbara. When fear and disaster approach, what's really important, anyway?