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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 6:31 am | Fair 42º


Bill Macfadyen: Sadly, Search for Missing Los Angeles County Fire Captain Trails Off in Montecito

What else is news in NoozWeek’s Top 5? Fires close Highway 166 east of Santa Maria and a Santa Barbara butcher shop; Lowe’s goes nuts and bolts from Orchard Supply Hardware; and Mosaic wants a piece of State Street

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A sad procession likely will be repeated Aug. 27. (Peter Hartmann / Noozhawk photo)

Mercifully, football season is here.

Before I ditch the Los Angeles Dodgers until next year, I have to congratulate the Guggenheim geniuses for assembling the best mediocre team in baseball.

As far as I can tell, the only difference between Guggenheim’s ownership and Frankrupt McCourt’s is that most fans can’t watch The Underachievers on TV now. As if any even wanted to.

Thirty years without a World Series championship. Pathetic.

While the Dodgers flush themselves into ignominy, Noozhawk is headed in the opposite direction. Even as much of Santa Barbara seemed to be on vacation this past week, there were 116,174 of you reading what our reporters were writing, according to our Google Analytics.

What follows is my take on your Top 5 stories during that period. Please note — again — that this is my opinion column, not a news story. Thanks for reading!

1. Body Found on Montecito Trail During Search for Missing Los Angeles County Fire Captain

The five-day search for missing Los Angeles County fire Capt. Wayne Habell ended the evening of Aug. 18 in Montecito’s Hot Springs Canyon, where his body was discovered near the Hot Springs Trail.

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Capt. Wayne Habell, Fire Station 73, Battalion 6, is out of service. Godspeed and farewell. (Los Angeles County Fire Department photo)

Authorities determined he had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The 43-year-old married father of three was last seen at 7:30 a.m. Aug. 13 when he left his Newhall home, headed, he had said, to a gym in Stevenson Ranch.

In a rather unusual admission, the Los Angeles County Fire Department reported in a missing person’s bulletin that Habell had been suffering from depression.

The afternoon of Aug. 17, Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle that had been parked for several days at the Hot Springs trailhead, on East Mountain Drive about a quarter-mile west of Hot Springs Road.

Sheriff’s Lt. Kevin Huddle said the SUV came back as registered to Habell, and a witness reported having seen a man walking up the trail by himself.

An intensive search was quickly launched, and sheriff’s deputies, the Santa Barbara County Air Support Unit helicopter and the all-volunteer county Search & Rescue Team combed the area until nightfall.

The hunt resumed at first light the next day, and Habell’s body was located about 6 p.m., Huddle said.

Accompanied by a procession of emergency vehicles, the remains were transported to the county Coroner’s Office, where an autopsy was conducted.

On Aug. 22, Habell’s body was driven back to Los Angeles County, with his hearse trailed by a larger procession of emergency vehicles and saluted by fellow firefighters and first responders at overpasses all along the route.

Habell is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and their three children, Josh, Noah and Madilynn.

A flag ceremony is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Aug. 24 at Habell’s station, Los Angeles County Fire Station 73, 24875 N. Railroad Ave. in Newhall, and his funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Aug. 25 at Padre Serra Parish, 5205 Upland Road in Camarillo.

He is to be buried in Santa Barbara at 2 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Santa Barbara Cemetery, 901 Channel Drive.

Given the graveside service, Habell clearly has ties to the South Coast. It’s not known what his prior connection is to Montecito, or whether he had been involved in the fight against the Thomas Fire that exploded through Hot Springs Canyon on Dec. 16. Several thousand firefighters were deployed in Montecito that morning, including units from LACFD.

Two GoFundMe pages have been established to assist the family. One by LACFD Capt. Adam Clint, a former colleague of Habell’s, has raised more than $23,000 as of Aug. 24. A second, by family friends, has raised almost $2,600.

Click here for suicide prevention information and resources that are available 24/7.

2. Front Fire Burns More Than 1,000 Acres East of Santa Maria Valley

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Talk about a tall order. (David Middlecamp / San Luis Obispo Tribune photo)

A wildfire that broke out just after midday Aug. 19 quickly mushroomed in size, forcing a 20-hour closure of Highway 166 east of Santa Maria.

The Front Fire was reported around 1:30 p.m. at the Rock Front off-highway vehicle access area in Los Padres National Forest. The site is just inside the San Luis Obispo County line north of the highway, not far from Rock Front Ranch at 10590 Highway 166.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

The fire’s size initially was estimated at more than 1,000 acres, but that figure was later reduced to 936 acres. Authorities say full containment is expected over the weekend.

No structures were threatened, but roads and trails in the area were closed. Highway 166 was reopened Aug. 20.

3. Haley Street Shop Damaged in Santa Barbara Structure Fire

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Don’t count out Carniceria La Bodeguita. (Peter Hartmann / Noozhawk photo)

A late night electrical fire at a Santa Barbara butcher shop left the store’s equipment in ruins, but the building was spared and the owner vows to rebuild and reopen.

According to Santa Barbara Fire Department spokeswoman Amber Anderson, a small blaze broke out around 10:35 p.m. Aug. 17 inside Carniceria La Bodeguita at 512 E. Haley St. in the ... “Laguna District.”

She said firefighters arrived to find electrical equipment in flames, which they promptly extinguished. The cause of the fire was under investigation, she added.

Although the building was insured, the contents were not, according to a family spokesman for La Bodeguita owner Javier Lomeli. A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to buy new refrigerators, meat grinders, slicers, scales and produce.

As of Aug. 24, $3,500 had been raised toward the $50,000 goal. Click here to make an online donation.

Lomeli’s son, Adam, said the 40-year-old butcher shop was a stalwart supplier for Santa Barbara restaurants, as well as Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church a few blocks away.

“My father has always been a giver,” he said. “We hope that in our time of need, some of the generosity he has shown the community will come back to our family.”

There were no injuries in the fire, and nearby businesses were unscathed, among them Art Resources Custom Picture Framing and Lito’s Mexican Food. As many of you might have guessed, Lito’s is on my #bestofbillrecommendation list, both for the huevos rancheros and the mesquite grilled tri-tip tacos.

4. Orchard Supply Hardware Stores in Goleta, Santa Maria to Close Down

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Soon to be out of stock. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

It was a great run but Orchard Supply Hardware, founded in San José in 1931, will not live to see 2019. Its parent company, Lowe’s, has announced that all 99 of its OSH hardware and garden stores in California, Oregon and Florida will close by year-end.

Orchard Supply Hardware operates two stores in Santa Barbara County, one at 125 N. Fairview Ave. in Goleta and the other at 1950 S. Broadway in Santa Maria.

OSH is known for its commitment to knowledgeable and personable customer service, and if there is a tidier and cleaner hardware store out there, I don’t know what it is.

Our Josh Molina stopped by the Goleta OSH after the announcement, but store employees declined to comment, citing company prohibitions.

OSH customers had plenty to say, however.

“It’s a disaster,” Chris Arnoult told him. “This place is a really good store.

“You can go out to The Home Depot out there (at Camino Real Marketplace) if you can find somebody to help you. There’s people here (OSH) and they know what they are doing.”

Lowe’s, a Mooresville, N.C.-based national home improvement retailer, acquired Orchard Supply Hardware from Sears Holdings Corp. in 2013. In a statement outlining OSH’s demise, the company said it would be focusing on its “core home improvement business” and slimming down its own inventory, as well.

Although Lowe’s reported stronger-than-expected earnings Aug. 22, it is still chasing industry leader Home Depot.

5. Mosaic Set to Open Inside Former Peet’s Coffee Shop on State Street

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Adam Geeb of SIMA Management Corp., center, and Dan Ferrick and MIchael Lewis of Impact HUB think their Mosaic concept will solve a piece of the State Street puzzle in downtown Santa Barbara. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

For the 17 of you not paying attention, downtown Santa Barbara has been in a freefall. The alarming drag has even affected relatively healthy sections like the 1100 block of State Street, which counts the Santa Barbara Museum of Art as its anchor “tenant.”

Earlier this year, Peet’s Coffee abruptly announced it had poured its last cup of craft coffee at 1131 State St., vacating the 2,500-square-foot space it had occupied in the historic San Marcos Building on the corner of State and West Anapamu streets.

Rather than hire a consultant and form an official subcommittee, a diverse team of creative types donned their thinking caps and came up with an innovative solution to help address one of downtown’s most visible challenges: storefront vacancies.

As our Josh Molina first reported in a Noozhawk exclusive, the concept, called Mosaic, is a co-working environment of locally owned — and known — food retailers sharing the counter and seating, and benefiting from the draw of each other’s products.

In this case, the partnership between SIMA Management Corp., the landlord, and nearby Impact HUB Santa Barbara, a local leader in co-working spaces, is welcoming Buena Onda Empanadas, Draughtsmen Aleworks, Hook & Press Donuts and Juice Ranch.

“We’re trying to create a place that is dynamic and delicious,” said Michael Lewis, chief impact/operating officer at Impact Hub, 1127 State St.

The Mosaic space is undergoing a transformation, with a soft launch expected in the next week or so and a grand opening likely in September.

“We’ve been discussing similar concepts for a while with Impact HUB,” said Adam Geeb, SIMA’s director of asset management. “When 1131 State became available, with its very usable layout and access to the San Marcos Building’s scenic courtyard, it presented a unique opportunity to try it out.”

He said the space provides co-tenants a prime downtown location and “an opportunity that would have required a significant commitment of time and capital to achieve on their own.”

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Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Black Bear That Dropped In on Rincon Point Had to Be Euthanized.

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

We’re doomed AF: P&G Wants to Trademark LOL and Other Millennial Phrases.

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Best of Bill’s Instagram

I ventured into an unexpectedly pleasant DMV office in my Instagram feed this past week, but also came across another hole in my devastated Montecito neighborhood.

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Watch It

(BRProud News - Local 33 / Fox44 video)

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk and Instagram: @bill.macfadyen, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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