MONTECITO, Calif. - When mandatory evacuations were enforced in Montecito, a few residents stayed back to protect their property. One of those residents was Lynn Kirst who had help from her best friend Bill Myer.
“We wanted to save the place and we knew in order to do that we would have to be here, said Kirst.”
Kirst has lived on her ranch near East Mountain View Drive for over 50 years. Her best friend Bill Myers, a retired fire engineer and building contractor, came up with a plan to save her house.
“My intent was to be here and prepare this structure for the assault and man, what an assault it was, said Myers.”
Bill engineered a fire suppression system for Kirst's ranch after the Tea fire broke out back in 2008. In the past two years, they upgraded the system preparing for the next big fire.
“We put in enormous rain birds to really saturate this place," said Kirst. "This helps raise the humidity level. We also have a 5,000-gallon water tank and an engine to run it, plus 60 gallons of foam on hand. My insurance company came in and sprayed Phos-chek all along the edge of the canyon.”
Kirst also cut down nearly 100 Eucalyptus trees around her property, not only to clear the way for fire danger but to also to create a staging area for fire crews.
“I thought for sure if this was a staging area there was no way they were going to let us burn," said Kirst. But the fire crew got the word from high command that this fire was coming too fast, too strong, too hot, and too dangerous and they pulled everyone to safer grounds.”
“It was coming down, I estimated, about 15 to 20 mph," said Myers. "It was from rim to rim and it sounded like an engine from a jet.”
It was two people against a wall of fire.
“This is when we hit the switch and it activated the 60,000-gallon tank and the big rain birds," said Kirst. "We waited until the last minute for that because we didn’t want to wash off the foam.”
At one point they ran out of water and had to get inside to get away from the smoke. They watched, waited, and prayed their plan would work.
“My engineering plan held up,” said Myers. It worked.
Looking back, Lynn and Bill think their actions may have helped stop the Thomas fire from spreading.
“You can see we stopped the fire right along the edge of the canyon," said Kirst. If the fire would of went straight down to the canyon it would of went into the heart of Montecito, and we would of had another Santa Rosa on our hands.”