Thursday, August 16 , 2018, 2:30 am | Fair 66º


Local News

As Blaze Rages, Evacuee is Forced Out of His Home Away from Home

An SBCC student from Redding living in a house threatened by the Gap Fire finds solace at San Marcos' Red Cross shelter.

Redding native and SBCC student Erik Hoyer has no family in the area and has been living with three roommates in an old farmhouse in Glen Annie Canyon, whose residents were ordered out of their homes Tuesday night. (Rob Kuznia / Noozhawk photo)

A raging fire creeping down a mountain toward civilization. A mandatory evacuation order. A fire-related power outage darkening 150,000 homes.

Given the turmoil caused by the growing Gap Fire in the mountains above Goleta, one might expect the evacuation center at San Marcos High School on Hollister Avenue to be teeming with refugees.

But as of early Wednesday evening, the number of evacuees taking advantage of the free food and cots offered by the Santa Barbara County Chapter of the American Red Cross amounted to a grand total of one: Santa Barbara City College student Erik Hoyer.

“I decided to come here, get some food, take a nap and cross my fingers,” the 23-year-old commercial-diving student said while sitting on one of several military-green cots laid out in the school’s cleared-out cafeteria.

A native of Redding, Hoyer has no family in the area. He has been living with three roommates in an old farmhouse in Glen Annie Canyon, whose residents were ordered out of their homes Tuesday night.

The seven-bedroom farmhouse belongs to a woman who recently retired and moved to Arizona. About 10 p.m. Tuesday — four hours after the fire started — Hoyer said he and his roommates were watching the movie The French Connection when they heard a knock on the door.

They answered, and a fire supervisor with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department told them about the evacuation order. Interestingly, they learned that “mandatory evacuation” doesn’t mean people must leave, but that they cannot return if they choose to do so.

The message came as a surprise to the roommates. “I looked at the fire and I didn’t think it was anything,” Hoyer said.

Two roommates left, and Hoyer and another stayed. The next morning, Hoyer awoke to find a fire truck in his driveway — as was the case for nearly every other driveway on the block.

He chatted with a firefighter before going to work and learned that if the fire got too close, the houses would be sprayed with a fire repellant in an attempt to add a protective layer. For Hoyer, the gravity of the situation was beginning to sink in.

Hoyer, who does finish carpentry at Bomo Design on State Street, found it difficult to concentrate at work. At lunchtime, he decided to leave for the day.

He headed home but was stopped by a blockade of fire and sheriff vehicles at the end of North Glenn Annie Road and told he wasn’t allowed in. Hoyer was told he could go to San Marcos High School, and he did. Hoyer said he was treated well by the handful of Red Cross volunteers stationed at the school. 

“They gave me pizza and water,” he said. “The Red Cross has been doing a great job.”

Red Cross volunteer Troy Harris said the low turnout is pretty typical for this area. “It’s unusual to have anybody show up, so this is nice,” he said of Hoyer’s visit. “There are people in Santa Barbara who prefer a hotel bed to a cot. … But whoever is here, we will feed.”

Hoyer said he was a little worried about his other roommate, who as of Wednesday night was still at home.

At 9:30 p.m., Hoyer and a friend were on the roof of the friend’s house on Turnpike Road watching the blaze make its way down the hill.

“I’m looking at it now. It’s lighting up the sky,” Hoyer said from his cell phone. “It’s huge.”

Noozhawk staff writer Rob Kuznia can be reached at [email protected]

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