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Bill Macfadyen: Fiery End to Christmas Stops Traffic on Highway 101, But Not for Noozhawk

NoozWeek’s Top 5 goes bar-hopping, pays homage to our monarch butterflies, busts 2 bumbling burglary suspects, and repeats after me

We’re gonna need a bigger truck. Click to view larger
We’re gonna need a bigger truck. (Ryan Cullom photo)

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Happy New Year!

There were 116,671​ people who read Noozhawk this past week. Here’s my take on your top stories:

1. Highway 101 Closed by Wind-Whipped Brush Fire Raging South of Carpinteria

I preach to our reporters that drama and inconvenience are the essential ingredients for never-fail reader response. What turned out to be Noozhawk’s third-most-read story of 2015 had more than enough of both.

Fanned by winds gusting to 60 mph, a brush fire erupted late Christmas night above Highway 101 near Solimar Beach on the outskirts of Ventura.

The blaze — whose cause was later traced to arcing power lines — forced the closure of the freeway between Bates Road in Carpinteria and Highway 33 in Ventura, detouring holiday weekend traffic to two-lane Highway 150 through Ojai.

The freeway was reopened about 14 hours later, at 2 p.m. Dec. 26.

The fire ignited just before 11 p.m. Dec. 25, and within a matter of hours had grown to an estimated 1,388 acres, or more than 2 square miles.

Nearly three dozen homes along Solimar Beach were threatened, and firefighters set up perimeter protection after the neighborhood was evacuated.

Campgrounds at Solimar Beach and Emma Wood State Beach were evacuated, and Faria Beach residents and campers at Faria Beach Park were under a voluntary evacuation.

Amtrak and Union Pacific train service was suspended through the area for hours.

More than 600 firefighters were deployed to battle the blaze, including dozens from Santa Barbara County. The fire was fully contained the night of Dec. 28.

Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery, including harrowing pictures from Ryan Cullom and Noozhawk reader Justin Palmer, who drove through the area within minutes of the fire’s start. 

The lights are on at the Sportsman Lounge in downtown Santa Barbara. (Bill Macfadyen / Noozhawk file photo via Instagram)
The lights are on at the Sportsman Lounge in downtown Santa Barbara. (Bill Macfadyen / Noozhawk file photo via Instagram)

2. Tara Jones: The Best of the Worst — 5 Dive Bars to Try in Santa Barbara and Goleta

It’s a dirty job but someone had to do it. Our Toast of Santa Barbara columnist, Tara Jones, answered the last call to come up with the five top dive bars on the South Coast.

Tara served up her rankings but, of course, everyone has a different bar code so readers offered their own drinking preferences.

My favorite — the Tiburon Tavern — didn’t make her list. It has nothing to do with booze, but involves an apparently distinctive tattoo, a rough-looking waitress with a son doing time at Pelican Bay State Prison, and two Santa Barbara Pony League dads killing time between a double-header across the street at MacKenzie Park. Good times, good times.

Experience the butterfly effect at the Goleta Butterfly Grove. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)
Experience the butterfly effect at the Goleta Butterfly Grove. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

3. Hordes of Monarch Butterflies Cover Ellwood Mesa During Winter Migration

More than 20,000 monarch butterflies have descended on the Goleta Butterfly Grove on Ellwood Mesa, where they’ll be roosting in the grove’s eucalyptus trees until about mid-February.

Just before Christmas, we sent our Lara Cooper out to the grove for a stroll among the butterflies. It was a magical experience, but don’t take her word for it. You can go out and see for yourself. On New Year’s Day.

The Goleta Butterfly Grove is open sunrise to sunset daily. You can park at Ellwood School, at 7686 Hollister Ave., and the grove is an easy half-mile walk away.

4. Deputies Foil Christmas Morning Burglary at Goleta Business

Jason Lee Newton and Glenn Wayne Olson may have lengthy records but neither will ever be considered a criminal mastermind. Their Christmas Day caper proves it.

and dumber (Glenn Wayne Olson)
and dumber (Glenn Wayne Olson)

Dumb (Jason Lee Newton)
Dumb (Jason Lee Newton) ...

Responding to a security alarm at a Goleta business, a Santa Barbara County ​sheriff’s deputy flushed two suspects from a fenced storage area at 6466 Hollister Ave.

The two men ran in different directions, although the 46-year-old Olson isn’t the athlete he probably never was. He gave up quickly.

Newton, 29, was in better shape and was chased to a nearby building. As sheriff’s deputies, UC Santa Barbara police and California Highway Patrol officers surrounded the place, the suspect climbed to the roof.

“A property caretaker who lives in the building heard footsteps on the roof and came out to investigate,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said. “He discovered a nearby storage room was now locked and the lights had been turned off.”

A phalanx of law enforcement — including a sheriff’s K9 unit — moved in, but Hoover said Newton refused to surrender and was uncooperative, combative and resisted arrest while being taken into custody.

Newton, who had an outstanding warrant with his name on it, was arrested on the warrant and suspicion of burglary, possession of burglary tools, resisting arrest, trespassing, conspiracy and prowling.

The two doofuses were taken to County Jail, where Olson apparently decided it was his time to shine.

Hoover said he made several unsuccessful attempts to hide narcotics inside his body — I’m not going to ask where — and deputies recovered nearly 9 grams of heroin, methamphetamine and prescription opiates packaged for sales.

Olson was arrested on suspicion of burglary, smuggling narcotics into a custodial facility, possession of heroin for sale, possession of methamphetamine, destruction of evidence, resisting arrest, possession of stolen property and possession of marijuana, in addition to three outstanding warrants. 

5. Bill Macfadyen: Latest Highway 154 Smashup Injures 8 in Head-On Collision

What can I say? I just write about what you’re reading. Thanks for the opportunity.

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our top story this time last year? Santa Maria Woman Ashley Kerr Killed, 2 Injured in Fiery Highway 101 Crash.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

My wife’s family tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day isn’t so odd, after all: Strange New Year’s Traditions from Around the World.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

Pierre gets his bark on at a Nordstrom Santa Barbara mannequin. Doggone it.

HT to my friend, Kevin Henrick.

(Kevin Henrick / Noozhawk 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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