Santa Barbara- S County

Deputies escort Montecito residents home for emergency items

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office has been escorting residents back into their Montecito homes, but only to grab important emergency items.

“I had a hard time just thinking about coming up here,” said Bob Nunez, a Montecito resident. His wife Jennifer felt the same way.

“Devastating. Just so so sad,” said Jennifer Nunez.

It was Bob and Jennifer Nunez first time back in Montecito since the mudslide disaster.

They along with all their neighbors must be escorted back home by Sheriff's deputies, only for emergencies, and only for a short amount of time.

“People can come down here and check in with deputies,” said Sgt. Greg Sorenson. “We are only allowing them to be escorted in by deputies in their vehicles and we can transport them into the house. We give them about 10 to 15 minutes to gather supplies that they need.”

Lines of cars started forming near the Santa Barbara Cemetery last week hoping to get an escort. Residents are asked to check in with deputies at the community response vehicle, but officials are only escorting those who absolutely need to retrieve certain items like medication and important documents.

“If they have a house that is destroyed or is in a dangerous condition we are not allowing them into that residence,” said Sgt. Sorenson.

The Sheriff's Office wants residents to understand the escort service uses up a lot of time and resources, which is why those going in are asked to only take out what is absolutely necessary. Like the Nunez family who went back to retrieve their mother's belongings.

“I had to get some medication,” said Jennifer. “I have a 93-year-old mother. Now that the freeway is open, I am going to move her to my brother's house and I had to get a lot of their things.”

The few minutes that Bob and Jennifer had back home were emotional.

"We know so many people that are impacted in those areas,” said Bob. “We've been in those places that lost homes, we’ve been in the houses that lost lives and it’s just painful.”

“The residents are really appreciated of us being able to bring them up there,” said Sgt. Sorenson. “It gives them an idea to see the condition of the neighborhood. After they go in there they see why they are kept out.”

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