Friday, December 15 , 2017, 10:53 am | Smoke 69º


Local News


Bill Macfadyen: Best Way to Fight Gibraltar Fire Appears to Be Up in the Air

Also in NoozWeek’s Top 5 is a benefit for a 10-year-old crash victim, an alleged rape, a dry lake and high density. But first, Small Business of the Year!

Bombs away. Click to view larger
Bombs away. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)


Before we get started this week, Noozhawk would like to thank the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce for naming our company the 2015 Goleta’s Finest Small Business of the Year.

We’re honored to be recognized for our contributions in the Goleta Valley and our long commitment to the community. And we’re excited to share the stage with our fellow award recipients: Kathleen Cochran, Angel Martinez of Deckers Brands, Orbital ATK, Jason Weaver of DELux LED, Kyle’s Kitchen, Devereux, Hugs for Cubs and the Santa Barbara Foresters, Brent Daniels, Ed de la Torre, Frank Koroshec of San Marcos High School and Maggie Miller of Dos Pueblos High School.

Our award is doubly gratifying because Noozhawk had the privilege of being named Goleta’s Finest Entrepreneur of the Year back in 2008, our first full year in business.

We’ve come a long way in the seven years since, but I think we’ll stop right here; we have no plans to ever be the Big Business of the Year. OK, at least for now.

Thank you to our fantastic — and tireless — team of Noozhawks, to our advertisers and sponsors for their confidence and support, and to the world’s greatest readers for their enthusiasm and loyalty.

Celebrate with us at Goleta’s Finest on Nov. 20 at Bacara Resort & Spa.

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Fueled by a brush fire run, Noozhawk had 123,004 readers this past week. Yes, more people watched CNBC’s farcical attempt at hosting a debate, but The Three Stooges is a tough act to follow.

Here’s my take on your top stories:

1. Firefighters Wary of Winds as They Battle Gibraltar Fire

After a fitful night of gusty winds slamming doors and shuddering through window screens, it’s never good to be awakened before daybreak by the unmistakable smell of smoke.

That’s what happened Oct. 29 in Montecito after a brush fire ignited off of East Camino Cielo between Gibraltar Road and Montecito Peak.

While those of us living below the mountain couldn’t see what was going on, locals throughout Santa Barbara had a mostly unobstructed view of the flames. By the dawn’s early light, things didn’t look so good.

Given the wind, the drought, the forecast of temperatures in the mid-90s and virtually no humidity, firefighters wasted no time after the blaze was reported at 5:16 a.m.

Almost immediately, crews from the Montecito, Santa Barbara City, Santa Barbara County, Los Padres National ForestCarpinteria/Summerland, CalFIRE and even the Vandenberg Air Force Base fire departments were on the scene.

As the sun rose higher, the reassuring chop-chop-chop of helicopters reverberated in the canyons. What came next, however, was a remarkable sight that may well have saved the day.

For hours, a steady lineup of aerial tankers laid down a swath of fire retardant — 85,000 gallons in all. The bright red-orange material coated the mountainside like flocking on a Christmas tree, and was visible for miles.

The fleet of 10 airplanes — large and small — is credited by officials with keeping the Gibraltar Fire to just 50 acres.

“We had an unbelievable amount of aircraft,” Santa Barbara Fire Chief Pat McElroy exclaimed to our Tom Bolton late in the day.

While only 10 percent of the blaze had been contained by nightfall, tactically, the aggressive aerial attack appeared to be a big win for firefighters on Day One. Memories of the Tea and Jesusita fires are still raw; Santa Barbarans aren’​t “let it burn” fans.

With another night of strong, gusty winds hammering Montecito, fire officials weren’t taking anything for granted. More than 500 firefighters were working the lines overnight, and the air raid was to resume in the morning.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Meanwhile, the blaze — and some terrific team reporting by Tom, Giana Magnoli, Lara Cooper and Gina Potthoff — spurred hundreds of Noozhawk readers to sign up for our free NoozAlert text messages. Click here to add your cell phone to our list. 

2. Santa Maria Community Rallies to Help 10-Year-Old Boy Severely Injured in Crash Near Nipomo

A 10-year-old Santa Maria boy critically injured in a horrific — and bizarre — car crash in southern San Luis Obispo County is the focus of numerous community fundraisers underway to help him and his family.

Elijah Olivas has his game face on, but needs as much help as he can get. (Olivas family photo)
Elijah Olivas has his game face on, but needs as much help as he can get. (Olivas family photo)

Elijah Olivas, a sixth-grader at Tunnell Elementary School, was ejected from a vehicle that overturned Oct. 19 on Thompson Road near Wineman Road south of Nipomo.

Authorities say the 16-year-old driver lost control when an adult in the car allegedly began assaulting the teenager, choking him at one point.

The sedan’s three passengers — including Elijah and his 13-year-old brother, Jason — were sitting in the back seat, the San Luis Obispo County Tribune reported. Elijah reportedly was ejected after his seatbelt buckle became unlatched during the physical altercation before the crash.

Doctors say the boy suffered skull fractures, a fractured jaw, an amputated hand, a broken arm, a collapsed lung and a broken pelvic bone. He was rushed to Marian Regional Medical Center and then quickly flown by helicopter to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford in Palo Alto.

Authorities say John Gilbert Martinez Jr., 57, of Guadalupe, is facing seven charges, including assault causing great bodily injury, felony battery, willful cruelty to a child, interfering with a driver’s control of a vehicle and being under the influence of a controlled substance.

Martinez is — or was — a coach with the Guadalupe Wrestling Club, which counted the Olivas brothers as members.

Elijah’s dad, Jason Olivas, says he and his wife, Maria, are eternally grateful for the outpouring of support.

“I don’t have the words to thank everybody,” he told our Janene Scully. “It’s just overwhelming for us.”

The Olivases are staying at a nearby Ronald McDonald House at Stanford to remain close to their son.

A GoFundMe page has been established to accept donations, and various fundraisers and donation drives are being held back home.

In spite of his son’s injuries, Olivas has no doubt about his tenacity.​

“He’s got the biggest heart,” he said of Elijah, an avid wrestler. “He’s got the most determination. He does not like to lose, not even a coin toss.”

Please click here to help out the family.

3. Former Santa Barbara City College Student Arrested on Rape Charge

Kenechukwu Denzel Ugwueze, an 18-year-old former Santa Barbara City College student, was arraigned on rape charges Oct. 19 in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

As first reported by The Channels, SBCC’s student-run news organization, Ugwueze was arrested on suspicion of raping an 18-year-old woman at his home in the 1400 block of Pacific Avenue, off Shoreline Drive a couple of blocks east of Washington Elementary School.

Santa Barbara police Sgt. Riley Harwood confirmed that Ugwueze was arrested Sept. 11 in the alleged Sept. 1 attack.

SBCC spokeswoman Joan Galván confirmed that Ugwueze had been enrolled at the school this fall but said he is not currently attending classes. The former Corona resident reportedly is a former SBCC football player.

His next court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 2, according to prosecutor Von Nguyen of the District Attorney’s Office.

The downsized Lake Cachuma. (Melinda Burns / Noozhawk photo)
The downsized Lake Cachuma. (Melinda Burns / Noozhawk photo)

4. As Lake Cachuma Nears Record Lows, Water Managers Do Some Soul-Searching

Amid California’s chronic drought, the dry hole formerly known as Lake Cachuma has shriveled to a staggering 16 percent of its capacity.

It’s a shocking sight to those driving by the once sprawling reservoir in the bucolic Santa Ynez Valley, but it’s far worse than it looks. With the impacts for local water delivery growing ever-more dire with each passing day, there’s barely enough to go around.

Some 70 federal, state and county water managers recently gathered at the lake to talk about its future, and we had contributing writer Melinda Burns tag along to see if there was any hope.

The good news is there is. Thanks to signs of El Niño, meteorologists are predicting a very wet winter, one big enough to cause Cachuma to fill and spill for the first time since 2011.

Locals also are doing more than their part to cut back, with water managers saying the county is far exceeding the 25-percent conservation target set by the state.

The bad news is, well, it’s right there for all to see.

“The safe yield of Cachuma is going to inevitably be decreased,” said Joshua Haggmark, water resources manager for the City of Santa Barbara. “How are we going to make up that supply?”

My old friend, Tom Fayram, deputy director of the Santa Barbara County Water Resources Division, told Melinda that significant changes are ahead for the water agencies that tap into Cachuma, for the county and for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the reservoir.

A permanent 20-percent reduction in allocations is one possibility, he said. Pumping the lake hard during wet years and cutting way back in dry ones is another.

“Consensus is the biggest impediment,” Fayram said.

Unfortunately, the only true consensus is a historically unreliable one: El Niño.

In Santa Barbara, plans are afoot to pull the rug out from under this South Hope Avenue property so a new high-density apartment project can be built. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)
In Santa Barbara, plans are afoot to pull the rug out from under this South Hope Avenue property so a new high-density apartment project can be built. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

5. Santa Barbara Gets 1st Look at Latest High-Density Rental Housing Proposal

Developers hoping to build a rental housing project across the street from La Cumbre Plaza took their high-density proposal to the Santa Barbara Planning Commission, which gave their concept review a generally favorable reception.

West Hollywood-based Faring Capital is proposing a four-story mix of 11 studios, 32 one-bedroom and three two-bedroom apartments at 15 S. Hope Ave. The site currently is occupied by a rug store on the east side of the outdoor shopping center on Upper State Street.

The commissioners did express a few concerns, among them the modern, urban-esque design; the vagueness of restoration plans for Arroyo Burro Creek behind the property; and even a tree that is designated for removal.

As our Josh Molina reported, however, the commissioners didn’t seem to have substantive objections to the project.

The Faring Capital plan is one of several working its way through the system under the city’s average unit-density incentive ordinance, which permits high-density rental housing projects in certain neighborhoods.

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week, from my peripatetic tour of the World Wide Web: The Man Who Volunteered to Enter Auschwitz and Exposed the Horrors of the Holocaust.


                                                                 •        •        •

Jordan Spieth is the face of golf these days. His is also a face made out of 24,152 golf balls. Fore!

(AT&T video)

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

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