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Burn Victims Tell of Their Escape From the Flames of the Tea Fire

Lance and Carla Hoffman, still recovering, were released from a burn center on Wednesday.

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Lance and Carla Hoffman, severely burned in the Tea Fire, leave the UCI Regional Burn Center on Wednesday. (Hoffman family photo)

Some call it a miracle, others call it sheer luck. Whatever it was, Lance and Carla Hoffman’s journey through the Tea Fire to Station 7 was the result of — literally — grace under fire.

The couple, who rented a cottage in the Santa Barbara foothills, had to run through the flames and drive the winding roads through smoke and ash for several miles before finding help at the fire station, a feat that left many wondering how they managed to do it, suffering from the burns they received.

The following is an account, submitted by Linda Hoffman, Lance’s mother:

“On the night of the Tea Fire, Lance and Carla’s first hint of the fire was seeing a huge orange glow over the hillside when looking out their window. The closest parking area for their car was nearly 300 yards away from their home, and they had no idea that the fire had already burned past them. Expecting to safely run to their car, they tried to evacuate but were forced to run through the fire and severe winds. Trying to avoid the flames as much as possible, they were unable to escape severe burns.

“They intended to drive straight to the hospital, and went down East Mountain Drive and Coyote Road. When they got to Sycamore Canyon Road, their usual route to town, it was closed with traffic being redirected to escape the fire. Rather than follow that detour, they drove west on Stanwood Drive and upon seeing Fire Station 7, turned in for help. With Providence, there was still one engine in the station. The firefighters immediately rendered first aid, wrapping them both, applying cold water, giving oxygen, calling an ambulance and notifying the hospital to be ready for their serious burn patients.

“Upon arrival at the hospital, the physicians were able to treat and intubate Lance and Carla in time, successfully providing the oxygen needed before their breathing airways would have irreversibly swollen shut. Helicopters then airlifted them to the UCI Regional Burn Center, where the rest of their lifesaving treatments began.

“Two months later, on Wednesday, they were discharged together, and are beginning the rest of their recovery in Orange County, where their burn injury specialists can continue treatments. The couple eagerly await the time when they can return to their lives and a home in Santa Barbara.

“In the meantime, the Lance and Carla Burn Fund, with all the donations and fundraisers that have been so generously provided, is a tremendous comfort and makes the rest of their recovery possible. Now that their medical issues are a matter of their most thorough recovery and quality of life, rather than life and death, the availability of these funds is essential and deeply appreciated.

“Lance and Carla, and we their family, are intensely grateful beyond words for all that the community has done to make this possible. The love and comfort of friends and strangers has made a world of difference to us all!”

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