Residents urged to have a safety plan now with winter weather coming

Fire zones could have mud flows

Winter rains could produce flash flooding in the Whittier Fire zone along San Marcos Pass. (John Palminteri /KEYT photo)

SANTA BARBARA Co.,CALIF. - With winter weather coming, Santa Barbara County emergency officials are very concerned in areas where there were summer wildfires.

One particularly difficult fire zone is the 18,400 acre blackened mark left by the Whittier Fire.  It burned in July along San Marcos Pass, over Broadcast Peak and down towards the front country homes before it was stopped.

With rains coming, Emergency Services Director Robert Lewin says residents need to be prepared to move quickly, especially if a storm dumps a large amount of rain in a short time.

He urges people to get a plan along with their neighbors.

"If there is a flash flood debris flow, which neighbor are you going to go to that has higher ground?   Instead of having to leave all the way, just get out of harms way and go to your neighbors house," said Lewin.

He spoke at an afternoon meeting with emergency leaders and public information officers in Santa Barbara County.  

Another area of concern includes the Isla Vista bluffs where some of the apartment buildings sit on eroding soil.     The county monitors that area regularly and issues notices to property owners when the crumbling hills threaten the structures.

In the north county,  the Alamo fire burned near Tepesquet Canyon and ranchland residents there have held meetings already to talk about their escape plans.

Lewin urges residents to take a moment and have a "Ready, Set, Go" plan so they have important papers and family communications in place if they have to flee a fire or a flood.

He says a two phased plan is a good start as we head into the wet months.

"How to  get to high ground immediately if they have the time, and the other one is how to evacuate quickly if they do have some time," said Lewin.

Even though the drought is not completely over in Santa Barbara County compared to other areas of the state, Lewin says,  "it doesn't take a record breaking rain season to have a problem."

That was evident on January 20 of this year when a strong storm cell slammed into the hills above the El Capitan Ranch Resort causing a mudflow that damaged cabins and cars.

The area was able to clean up eventually after weeks of work with heavy equipment and some rebuilding in order to open for the summer season.





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