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Local News

Movie Night Raises Funds to Help Couple Burned in Tea Fire

The event on behalf of Lance and Carla Hoffman, who remain hospitalized, brings in more than $8,000.

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Monday night’s fundraiser for Lance and Carl Hoffman, who were burned in the Tea Fire, included a screening of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. The movie was selected because the Hoffmans are science-fiction fans. (Rob Kuznia / Noozhawk photo)

A fundraiser for the uninsured Santa Barbara couple who suffered life-threatening burns in the Tea Fire raised more than $8,000 Monday night.

Lance and Carla Hoffman, both 29, are recovering at the UC Irvine Regional Burn Center after suffering second- and third-degree burns all over their bodies when leaving their rented cottage on East Mountain Drive shortly after the fire broke out Nov. 13. The blaze consumed 210 homes, including theirs.

Monday’s event, put together by the Santa Barbara Downtown Organization, was held at the Arlington Theatre and featured a cocktail hour followed by the showing of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.

The movie was selected with the Hoffmans’ tastes in mind: Carla is a die-hard Star Trek fan, and Lance — though he prefers Star Wars — also appreciates Star Trek, according to friends and relatives.

Jennifer Rose, the event’s organizer and the Downtown Organization’s operations director, said that at least 150 people came to see the movie. A handful of them, she added, lost their own homes to the fire. “All these people care a lot about them, and have come out to show it,” she said.

Lance’s mother, Linda, said she was deeply moved by the event.

“It’s just one more day of the stunningly beautiful movement of the community,” said the Lompoc resident. “It never ceases to amaze me.”

Shortly after the fire put the couple in the hospital, doctors weren’t sure they would survive. Both remained on life support for weeks, unconscious under heavy sedation to protect them from the physical pain.

Now, Carla walks with a cane and is “completely lucid,” Linda Hoffman said. Lance is able to breathe without a respirator — a huge victory considering doctors at one point feared his lungs were irreparably damaged by smoke. Although he isn’t talking yet, she said he responds to her questions.

“I know his eyes are working, his brain is working,” she said. “It’s wonderful.”

Linda Hoffman said she hasn’t asked Carla about the horrific episode. To illustrate the sensitivity of the topic, Hoffman said at one point someone showed Carla a picture of friends standing on their deck, but even that was too painful for her to bear. She said the couple are also concerned about their two cats, which have been missing since the fire.

Carla’s mother, Santa Barbara native Blanca Benedict, said she was too overwhelmed with emotion by Monday’s event to talk to the media.

Lance and Carla Hoffman worked downtown, he as a security guard at Paseo Nuevo and she as a manager at Metro Entertainment on West Anapamu Street. Neither had health insurance, said Hoffman, who added that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has indicated it will cover most of their in-patient medical expenses.

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Linda Hoffman, Lance’s mother, left, and Blanca Benedict, Carla Hoffman’s mother, attend Monday night’s fundraiser for the couple. (Rob Kuznia / Noozhawk photo)
The proceeds from the benefit will cover much of the occupational therapy they will need once they are discharged from in-patient care, she said.

“Much of their hands are burned, and they will need a lot of occupational therapy to get full use of them,” she said.

Some of the money also will be used to help them set up a new home, as the couple also didn’t have renters insurance.

The couple’s interest in fantasy goes beyond their appreciation of blockbuster sci-fi movies. They are members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group that strives to re-create the culture of the Middle Ages.

Among the people at Monday’s event was Chris Minerd, who, in addition to being Lance’s boss, is a close friend of the couple.

“Lance is the definition of a gentle giant,” said Minerd, referring to how Lance stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 230 pounds. “He is intelligent and very insightful. We’ve had so many conversations, from Star Wars to religion to politics — he is always so well versed on everything.”

Carla, meanwhile, is the “life of the party,” he said.

“She’s someone who, when she walks into the room, everyone is talking to her,” he said. “She has the quickest wit.”

For a time, Minerd knew both without even knowing they were married. “We’re all nerds — we all know each other through the nerd community,” he said.

On the day of the fire, the couple apparently were running to their car from their cottage when they were overtaken by a flash fire.

Although badly burned, Lance was able to drive the couple to Santa Barbara Fire Station No. 7, at Stanwood Drive and Mission Ridge Road.

From the station, they were transported by ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, and later were flown by helicopter to Irvine.

Twenty-two percent of Lance’s body was burned, and 9 percent of it was covered in third-degree burns, a relative said. About 30 percent of Carla’s body was burned, though she had fewer third-degree burns.

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