Saturday, August 18 , 2018, 8:00 pm | Fair with Haze 70º


Local News

Amid Chaos of Whittier Fire, Evacuees Gather at San Marcos High School

As wildfire continues to grow, emergency shelter hosting many campers displaced from Lake Cachuma


Veronica Mercado, 13 of her family members and her dog were staying at an emergency shelter Saturday afternoon at San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara.

An estimated 50 people were diverted to the campus at 4750 Hollister Ave. after the Whittier Fire broke out Saturday near Lake Cachuma.

Mercado, from Los Angeles, and her family had been camping at Cachuma but were on a day trip to Goleta Beach Park when they saw the plume of smoke over the Santa Ynez Mountains.

“Deep down, I knew it was a fire but didn’t want to panic,” she told Noozhawk. “After talking to park rangers, we started to look at hotel options and found the emergency shelter.

“It’s material items at the campsite and can be replaced, but it has sentimental value.”

The group plans to head back to Los Angeles, wait for fire updates and collect their items when it’s deemed safe.

The youngest child in Mercado’s family is 9 years old, and the oldest is 16.

San Marcos High and Santa Ynez Elementary School, 3325 Pine St., in Santa Ynez, have been designated as shelters for people affected by the evacuation orders.

Ash was falling around the high school Saturday evening.

Small animals are welcome at the shelter, but not allowed inside the high school building. Volunteers are working to collect cages.

Small animals that owners can evacuate were being welcomed at the Santa Barbara Humane Society, a few miles away at 5399 Overpass Road. Call 805.681.4332 for more information.

The American Red Cross of Central California-Pacific Coast Chapter is on hand to provide refuge, sleeping cots, water and meals while people wait for officials to lift the evacuation orders.

“We have teddy bears, coloring books and toys to keep the children occupied,” said Kimberly Coley, executive director of the Pacific Coast and Ventura County chapters.

“It’s scary for kids to see the sky. Simple items make the children feel more at ease.”

Coley said most individuals staying at the shelter were camping at Lake Cachuma and had taken day trips to Santa Barbara or nearby areas.

“The fire happened quickly,” she said. “The folks have vehicles and camping equipment at their camp site.”

Coley said the best way to help those affected is to make an online donation to the American Red Cross.

Leann Rising is a campground host for Los Prietos Campground, in Los Padres National Forest above Santa Barbara.

“It’s scary because we have three dogs, one cat and two lizards — we have no home and nothing,” Rising said.

“When we drove down (Highway 154) there was a steady line of police cars going up (Highway 154). We didn’t think we would be evacuated.”

Rising packed her car and gathered clothing items and medicine in a bag.

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Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland 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.

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