Fire evacuees flee by the thousands, filling Carpinteria streets

Many left at dawn with an emergency order

Carpinteria becomes first stop for many Thomas fire evacuees. (John Palminteri/KEYT photo)

CARPINTERIA, Calif. - Thousands of evacuees have been fleeing the Ventura County Thomas fire, and many are filling the streets of nearby Carpinteria.

The shopping center at Casitas Pass Road was completely full at midday. Many people were sorting out the crisis between each other.

Some were trying to get a bite to eat at a local restaurant or a hot cup of coffee. Lines were long, but there was a common compassion between those who evacuated and local residents.

One woman who left her Ojai Valley home at 5 a.m. said she and her dog were offered a place to stay by a Carpinteria woman, on the spot. 

Some of the people gathering in the lot thought they would be escaping the thick smokey skies they left behind, but it was rusty and shielded the sun. You could feel the change in temperature when the smoke-filled skies covered the area.

Some had to evacuate at 5 a.m. with a reverse 911 call that gave them very short notice. The fire had been miles away last night. It spread much faster than anyone expected. 

Winds were clocked at times in excess of 60 miles per hour.

Dry brush, trees, structures, and parkland were all burned during the march of the flames. At one point there was a 10-mile long line of fire.

Oakview resident, Jimmy Harvey was up at 5 a.m. leading the evacuation from his area. “So I immediately went around and was banging on doors. I think we got about 12 people out of there"

Paul Booth left Oakview saying he was not going to wait for a fire truck. "We didn't see any when we were leaving. They were still pretty busy on the other side"

The Carpinteria streets, gas stations, restaurants and coffee shops were packed with hundreds of people coming into the area from the fire zone.

One resident got out before an evacuation order saying fire was all around.

Nearby, Carolyn Huestis was in the middle of a dinner party, and was out in less than an hour.
"Probably maybe 45 minutes, and we packed up. All the people who were there helped me and after I packed up myself we had to go evacuate horses," said Huestis. She had many helping hands. “The kindness of strangers really comes out at a time like this and we are appreciative of everything everyone had done."

Horse owners are getting extra help, from The Santa Barbara Polo & Raquet Club. Manager David Sigman said this afternoon, "We are actually driving down and picking up horses right now and a lot of our community people that are in the equine facilities are coming up and we are  glad to help, we are really glad to help."

Santa Barbara’s Equine Evac group was set up at the Earl Warren Showgrounds and taking in horses through Gate C. Camp Canine is taking in dogs under this emergency crisis.

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