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Bill Macfadyen: Fire Destroys Much of Montecito Estate, but Crews Save Artwork and Manuscripts

Noozhawk's Top 5 takes a dark turn with four deaths, then finds its flight plans foiled by the FAA

What were you reading on Noozhawk this past week?

1. Damage in the Millions in Montecito Home Blaze

Flames erupted at a Montecito estate the night of Dec. 29 and more than half of the 20,000-square-foot home was destroyed before firefighters could extinguish the blaze about four hours later. The two residents escaped injury but one firefighter suffered smoke inhalation.

Damages were estimated to be in the millions of dollars from the three-alarm fire at the house in the 400 block of Hot Springs Road. Montecito Fire Chief Chip Hickman told Noozhawk that firefighters concentrated on defending a newer part of the house that was built in the early 2000s but could not save the original half, which dated to the early 1900s.

He said the house, which is adjacent to the home of actress Drew Barrymore, contained a significant amount of artwork, historic manuscripts and fine furniture.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation, but “doesn’t appear to be suspicious,” Hickman said.

Crews from the Montecito Fire Protection District were assisted by personnel from the Carpinteria-Summerland, Santa Barbara city and Santa Barbara County fire departments.

2. Woman Walking Dog Struck, Killed by Train in Santa Barbara

A woman walking her dog along the railroad tracks in Montecito was struck and killed by an Amtrak train Jan. 2 near the Butterfly Lane undercrossing at Highway 101. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department later identified her as Pamela Price, 54, of Montecito.

The Coroner’s Office is investigating the incident and has not yet determined the manner or cause of death.

Price’s dog, an elderly Labrador retriever, was uninjured and was taken by authorities to the county animal shelter.

3. Man’s Decomposing Body Found in Mesa Apartment

A 30-year-old Santa Barbara man was found dead in his Mesa apartment Dec. 30 when his family went to check on him after not hearing from him since the day after Christmas. The man reportedly weighed more than 300 pounds and, according to Santa Barbara police, his body was “somewhat decomposed.” Police ruled out foul play and turned the case over to the Coroner’s Office.

4. Bill Macfadyen: Highway 154 Deaths Linked by Tragic Chain of Events

The tragic Dec. 21 deaths of Sara Ornelas and Barbara Romero continued to draw reader interest more than a week after they were struck and killed on Highway 154 near Rancho San Marcos Golf Course.

Ornelas, 54, of Santa Barbara, and Romero, 49, of Lompoc, had pulled off the highway while driving to Santa Ynez late that night. A small dog jumped out of their vehicle while they were stopped and was run over by a car. One of the women was hit by another car when she chased after the dog and the other woman was struck when she tried to reach her friend. They were pronounced dead at the scene.

Two of the motorists involved in the collisions stopped immediately, but the California Highway Patrol said a third driver — identified as Martin Macarena, 48, of San Luis Obispo — fled the scene. Macarena was tracked down and arrested at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez.

5. Arrival Delayed for All-You-Can-Fly Airline Service Out of Santa Barbara

Santa Monica-based Surf Air had the bright idea to expand its membership to Santa Barbara and offer its clients private-jet flights to Los Angeles, Monterey and San Francisco. Smart move, right?

Not so fast. The Federal Aviation Administration apparently has had better things to do and hasn’t gotten around to granting its blessing.

If the concept does get off the ground, fliers will be able to book a round-trip flight for $790 a month on one of the company’s Pilatus eight-seat aircraft and two round-trip reservations for $990 a month.

Meanwhile, the South Coast business community is still awaiting better options to get to Sacramento and San Jose.

                                                                  •        •        •

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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