SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A victim of the devastating Thomas Fire in December is helping hundreds of Montecito residents impacted by the devastating January mudflow.
Gary Simpson is the owner of the ACE Hardware Home Improvement Center in Santa Barbara. He lost his home to the fast-moving, blow torch flames from the Thomas Fire about a week before Christmas.
Despite his personal setback, he has turned his attention to others who have tons of mud and rocks in and around their homes from the weather disaster on January 9th.
Simpson has set up a disaster relief display at the store with essential supplies.
In a recent newspaper ad for his store Simpson wrote, "I have significantly reduced our prices on a majority of these items to help." He also said the store would stock certain items for customers that may not regularly be on display.
"You know, I don't have to dig heavy mud out of my house. I just feel so bad for everybody that's been affected. We just wanted to be there for everyone as best we could," said Simpson.
The items were selected in part from his own experiences trying to clean what he could from recovered items and get them appropriately into storage.
Simpson has boots, gloves, protective suits, masks and eye protection for everyone taking on the task due to the risks of injury or illnesses.
He also has a variety of cleaners, mold control sprays, brushes, and sponges.
Barrels in the display have a large supply of shovel and brooms, next to packing supplies and storage containers.
He says wheelbarrows are in big demand and many are pre-assembled ready to go out the door.
Simpson said he used many of these items at his house following the explosive firestorm he faced.
Looking ahead, he said, "If there's any kind of extended rain we are going to get more mud coming down."
For those getting set for the next storm, there are pallets of straw wattle for water flow control and jute netting to hold the ground together in areas where it might move with a strong storm.
Simpson says the ACE warehouses in the western states have been alerted to the local needs and have shipments ready if the demands increase. Already the store has a large supply of products to respond to the local demands now and in the months ahead when mudflow and flooding impacts will remain a serious concern.