Saturday, February 24 , 2018, 10:28 am | Fair 56º


Local News

Tea Fire Contained; Officials Seek Public’s Help in Investigation

Most of the mandatory evacuation-order areas have been reopened to residents.

The devastating Tea Fire, which destroyed 210 homes in its path, has reached full containment, officials announced Tuesday morning.

The only mandatory evacuation areas are West Mountain Drive between El Cielito and Coyote roads, which will be lifted effective 6 p.m. Tuesday, and for Gibraltar Road north of El Cielito to East Camino Cielo. The Santa Barbara County Emergency Operations Center said utility companies are still diagnosing and repairing infrastructure in the area with the hopes of restoring power by Wednesday.

All other previously listed mandatory evacuation order areas have been lifted and are now open to residents with government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license, or a government-issued identification card along with a utility bill, mail showing physical address, etc.

On Monday, officials announced they had determined the cause of the $5.7 million fire, which began about 5:50 p.m. Thursday between the Cold Springs Trailhead and the Tea House above East Mountain Drive, was of human origin. It is still unclear, they say, whether the fire was accidental or intentional.

Investigators are focusing on individuals entering the popular hangout spot late Wednesday and through Thursday evening. Anyone with information is urged to call the Sheriff’s Department anonymous tip line at 805.681.4171. Specifically, investigators want:

» A description of any vehicle(s) or occupant(s) seen in the area

» Any vehicle license plate number(s)

» Any suspicious activity that may be related to the fire

The wildfire scorched 1,940 acres in the western Montecito foothills, upper Sycamore Canyon and Rattlesnake Canyon, destroying at least 210 homes. Westmont College took a direct hit and the fire badly damaged Mount Calvary Retreat House & Monastery.

One death has been linked indirectly to the fire and there have been a score of injuries, including three critical burn injuries.

To see a list of homes lost in the city of Santa Barbara, click here. For the county, click here. The lists will be updated as more information is available.

Montecito residents can call the Montecito Fire Protection District at 805.565.8021. Information is also available from the county public information line at 805.681.5197. Noozhawk will also update with additional information.

Meanwhile, officials are mobilizing to help residents cope with the aftermath of the disaster:

» A local assistance center has been opened through a joint effort of the city of Santa Barbara and the county. Located at the Davis Center, 1232 De la Vina St., it will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The center will provide recovery assistance with regards to water and sewer lines, housing, mental health and insurance.

» Santa Barbara city is developing plans to streamline the review of the rebuilding process with “as-built” plans.

» Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, has introduced a bill to allow fire victims to receive a homeowner’s property tax exemption while their homes are being rebuilt or repaired, even if they cannot reside on the property during that time. The measure also will allow taxpayers to deduct excess disaster losses not compensated for by insurance, for up to five years on income tax returns as well as state reimbursements of local property tax losses to the counties resulting from decreased property tax assessments of damaged properties.

» The American Red Cross-Santa Barbara County Chapter will provide fire families with cleaning supplies, snacks and waters at Montecito Covenant Church, 671 Cold Springs Road, and the Santa Barbara Mission, 2201 Laguna St. For more information, contact the American Red Cross at 805.687.1331.

» A boil water order put in place for areas where water quality is affected by the fire has been partially lifted. Only those who live at addresses from 2190 to 2500 Mount Calvary Road, and 2225 and 2300 Gibraltar Road are still required to boil drinking and cooking water.

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