Severely Burned Couple Fights for Life
Grandfather says pair was overtaken by flash fire while trying to flee their East Mountain Drive cottage.
For most families who have endured loss as a result of the Tea Fire, the tragedy has been limited to material damages.
Lance and Carla Hoffman suffered major burns in the Tea Fire. (Jim Mills photo)
That’s not the case for the family of James Mills, a retired pharmacist in Solvang, whose grandson and granddaughter-in-law suffered major burns in the fire, and are clinging to life at the UC Irvine Regional Burn Center
Lance Hoffman, a 29-year-old security guard at Paseo Nuevo, and his wife, Carla, a manager at Metro Entertainment on West Anapamu Street, had been renting a small cottage up in the hills on East Mountain Drive.
(Click here for an updated story.)
Mills said the family isn’t sure exactly what happened to the couple, because they have been unconscious under sedation since their rescue.
The incident occurred Thursday evening, shortly after the fast-moving fire broke out on East Mountain and Coyote Road above Montecito’s Cold Spring neighborhood.
The couple was apparently running to their car from their cottage when they were overtaken by a flash fire, said Mills, speaking to Noozhawk by phone from his home.
Both Hoffmans were lightly dressed, Mills said, and as a result suffered severe burns on their arms and legs. Lance also has second- and third-degree burns on his head.
Although badly burned, the couple was able to drive themselves to a fire station. From there, they were transported by ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, and later were flown by helicopter to Irvine.
“A lot of times, when people are initially hurt — even gravely hurt — they can still do things that their bodies aren’t up to maintain,” said Mills, a former firefighter.
Mills said doctors at the burn center plan to keep the couple unconscious until the swelling goes down. He said they are connected to a life-support system to keep them hydrated, oxygenated and nourished.
Lance’s facial and head burns appear worse than Carla’s, he added. What’s more, doctors are worried that his lungs have been singed by flames.
“I couldn’t keep from crying when I saw him,” Mills said.
The couple has been married for about a year, and met, Mills said, while attending Whittier College.
A graduate of Santa Ynez High School, Lance, who was the captain of his water-polo team in high school, is a man of some heft — 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. Mills said he is a “pleasant guy” who, as a kid loved to accompany his woodsman grandfather on backpacking hikes through the back-country.
As a former firefighter, Mills said he had always been nervous about the couple’s decision to live up in the hills.
“People always think the fire happens to other people; as a fireman I saw this all the time,” Mills said. “Fire is an element of climate in California. The chaparral is like fuel. Up there, it’s not a matter of if it’s going to burn, but when.”
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on 11.16.08 @ 06:12 AM
Very informative article illustrating the human side of the fire tragedy.
on 11.16.08 @ 07:42 AM
I’m so sorry that this happened and hope that they both recover.
on 11.16.08 @ 08:16 AM
How sad! To the Mills family: please let the community know how we can be of help or comfort to you. Best wishes for a healthy recovery to Lance and Carla.
on 11.16.08 @ 10:57 AM
Anyone who knows the Mills family can’t but be overwhelmed with grief for these wonderful people. I am crying as I write this.
on 11.16.08 @ 02:59 PM
I used to work w/ them both many years ago. My heart is heavy with sadness as I write this. I will keep them and their families in my prayers, as well as the nurses and physicians in Irvine. Please keep us updated Rob.
on 11.16.08 @ 11:31 PM
My prayers are with this young couple. My son was at the Santa Barbara City Fire Station #7 at Stanwood Rd when they drove up. He was amazed that they could drive themselves. We have been so worried about them since he told us about their miraculous escape!!! Please know they have been in our prayers and if there is anything we can do to support this family let us know!! Much prayers and blessings to them and their families!!!
on 11.17.08 @ 03:43 AM
I’ve known Carla for many years and have known Lance since they moved back to Santa Barbara after college. When I heard about this, I was literally shocked to tears. It is so horrible that this has happened to anyone, especially two people I consider to be very good friends. My wife and I will be keeping Carla and Lance in our prayers, and I know my parents will too.
on 11.17.08 @ 08:45 AM
I wish I had heard about the plight of this couple sooner. The two “press conferences” I tuned in to on television were largely uninformative and consisted mainly of back slapping, congradulatory political “photo-ops” by local politicians trying to cash in on camera time rather than inform the public about important events that occurred like this tragedy.
on 11.17.08 @ 04:55 PM
I am praying for Lance and Carla.
on 11.17.08 @ 07:03 PM
I went to school with both of them and this news has torn my heart about. I can’t send them enough of my love and good energy. I pray that they recover quickly.
on 11.17.08 @ 08:50 PM
Our family’s prayers go out to Carla and Lance. If there is anything we can do to help, please keep us informed. May God bless them with a speedy and complete recovery.
on 11.17.08 @ 09:05 PM
Good on you jacks the entire county and all the others following the media comment on the very same issue with the exception of Wolf. She was truly compassionate for the victims.
on 11.18.08 @ 12:58 AM
Interesting that I haven’t seen this important story anywhere else. There is only a vague reference on places like KEYT and other print media that some people suffered smoke inhalation and burns.
I hope they’re recovery is as speedy as possible. It’s so sad. Please keep us updated on their status.
And good work on reporting this story.
on 11.18.08 @ 01:24 PM
My thoughts and prayers to Lance, Carla and the Mills family.
on 11.18.08 @ 07:06 PM
I have known Carla since gradeschool, as she was my close friend throughout. She has an energy about her that is undeniable. Seeing her each week at our local comic book shop, Metro Entertainment, and getting her suggestion for the best stories out there is a highlight of my week. She has, quite literally, been influential in my development of what I call “myself”.
If you’ve been touched by Carla or Lance, then you know how I feel about this news. For those who can help, a fund has been set up for them and any contribution will be helpful in rebuilding their lives. Thank you for your considerations. The information follows:
The Lance and Carla Burn Fund
Santa Barbara Bank and Trust
1483 East Valley Road
Montecito, CA 93108-1248
on 11.19.08 @ 02:48 PM
My prayers go out to these young people.
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