Monday, June 18 , 2018, 3:23 pm | Fair 69º


Local News

Painted Cave Residents Breathe Sigh of Relief as Fire Is Contained

Many say they were saved by a 'miracle' as Lookout Fire threatened their homes

The sense of relief was palpable among residents of the Painted Cave community Thursday afternoon, as firefighters finished building containment lines around the 44-acre Lookout Fire, which had menaced their homes a day before.

“Miracle” was the word used multiple times by Ogram Road resident Marc McGinnes.

“If the wind had been blowing, there would have been deaths,” McGinnes told Noozhawk. “It was right on the edge of the community.”

McGinnes and his wife were out walking along Glenn Road just before 8 a.m. Wednesday, when they spotted the blaze only about 200 yards away. They heard a loud boom as a wall of flame crashed down and rose straight up towards the sky.

McGinnes said it had been windy throughout the previous night, but at that point in the morning, the air was still. That lack of wind, and the brush clearing in the area by the Painted Cave Volunteer Fire Department, were what made the difference, he said.

McGinnes has lived in Painted Cave since 1982, and he recalled clearly the 1990 fire that bears the community’s name. It consumed hundreds of residences, killed one woman, and would have destroyed his home were it not for valiant firefighting efforts. 

After a successful water drop, McGinnes recalled, he watched the flames from the Painted Cave Fire retreat from his home and rush down the hill on a fateful path towards the ocean.

“I remember being shocked by the extreme relief I felt,” he said, “but also extreme empathy for those I knew would be affected.”

Alissa Sears, whose family has lived in Painted Cave since 1984, said this week’s fire was the closest call they have ever had.

“What struck me more than anything was the truly remarkable work of our firefighters and community coming together to effectively address a fire that could have so quickly gone out of control,” Sears said. “As challenging as the situation has been for all involved, it has been an incredibly powerful reminder of the important things in life – community, family, and the ability to overcome adversity together.”

On Wednesday, fate smiled again on the Painted Cave community, as it narrowly escaped the Lookout Fire, which threatened some 100 homes, prompted evacuations, and challenged fire crews while scorching the steep terrain above Highway 154.

Afternoon winds that could have whipped the fire into a conflagration never materialized Wednesday night, and no structures were damaged.

The cause of the fire, which broke out about 7:45 a.m. Wednesday, has not been released.

Some 200 firefighters worked throughout the day Thursday, but their numbers dwindled as they finished their shifts, according to Andrew Madsen, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.

“We were very successful today,” Madsen told Noozhawk on Thursday afternoon, noting that a containment line had been established around the entire fire perimeter.

Six engines and three hand crews remained on the fire scene Friday, Madsen said, patrolling and mopping up any remaining hot spots.

“A lot of these fires burn really hot, and the fire is going down into the root system,” he said. 

Fire crews planned to walk the area with hose packs, dousing burning embers with water to make sure the fire is completely out, he said.

Some engines and crews arrived from across the state to help out early Wednesday evening, but the fire was more under control more than expected, so many left to go home, he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >