Monday, June 25 , 2018, 4:57 am | Overcast 63º


Local News

Evacuation Center Opens at UCSB as Thomas Fire Impacts Hit Region

Santa Barbara County agencies prepare for possibility of intermittent power outages from the blaze; local facilities accepting evacuated animals from Ventura County

A Thomas Fire evacuation center opened at UCSB’s Multi-Activity Center Tuesday afternoon. Click to view larger
A Thomas Fire evacuation center opened at UCSB’s Multi-Activity Center Tuesday afternoon.  (Santa Barbara County photo)

The Thomas Fire had not burned into Santa Barbara County as of Tuesday night, but its impacts are felt throughout the region as structures were destroyed, smoke choked the skies and power outages plagued the South Coast and Ventura County.

The fire burned 65,000 acres as of Wednesday morning, destroying structures and prompting thousands of people to evacuate.

It started near Santa Paula cat about 6:20 p.m. Monday, and winds blew it southwest toward Ventura and Ojai, then south toward the ocean where it reportedly crossed Highway 101 in the Solimar Beach area Tuesday night.

The Santa Barbara County activated its Emergency Operations Center very early Tuesday, and was coordinating a response to the local impacts of the Thomas Fire, including opening an evacuation shelter at UC Santa Barbara.

Ventura County emergency information is available here, including updated evacuation notices, road closures, school closures, and shelter locations.

Evacuation shelters are open throughout Ventura County, and Santa Barbara County opened one at UC Santa Barbara’s Multi-Activity Center Tuesday afternoon, at 516 University Road.

Evacuees can enter UCSB’s campus through the main east entrance, on State Route 217, and park in Parking Lot 16, where staff will guide them to the shelter.

Directions and more information are available here.

Santa Barbara County facilities are also accepting evacuated animals. 

Small animals can be taken to the Santa Barbara Humane Society at 5399 Overpass Road, and large animals can be taken to Earl Warren Showgrounds at 3400 Calle Real in Santa Barbara, according to the county.

The Thomas Fire destroyed at least 150 buildings as of Tuesday, including the Vista Del Mar psychiatric hospital in Ventura, where 10 Santa Barbara County patients were evacuated due to the fire, county spokeswoman Gina DePinto said.

Santa Barbara County contracts with several out-of-county facilities, including Vista Del Mar, and places clients there when the 16-bed Psychiatric Health Facility is full.

Nine adults and one child from Santa Barbara County were at the facility at the time, DePinto said. 

The child was taken to another hospital, three adults were taken to Santa Barbara County’s Psychiatric Health Facility, and the others were released. The released adults had been admitted voluntarily, or were ready for discharge and discharged to family, she added.

The massive power outage Monday night darkened the entire South Coast and much of Ventura County, and it wasn’t just the general public re-evaluating their emergency preparedness plans and grabbing their flashlights.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department dispatch center lost power for several hours when its generator failed to switch on, and the Santa Barbara Police Department’s Combined Communications Center had to take over those calls.

The SBPD ended up taking about 140 of the Sheriff’s Department regional 9-1-1 calls, SBPD spokesman Anthony Wagner said.

The power at the sheriff’s dispatch center went out at about 10 p.m. Monday, department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said.

“Typically, as in this case, when this happens the first stage of our Uninterrupted Power Supply system immediately takes over and temporarily gives the backup generator time to fire up to carry the power indefinitely, if needed,” she said in an email.

“Due to power fluctuations earlier in the evening, the generator had been damaged and so failed to switch on. The temporary power source ran out completely at about 11:45 p.m., causing the dispatch outage.

“Due to contingency plans already in place, 9-1-1 lines were quickly taken over by SBPD, which is our designated 9-1-1 failover site for such events, and dispatch continued to function using portable radios and backup radio-equipped vehicles. Maintenance arrived on site and restored the connection to the generator power around 12:45 a.m. which returned us to normal operations.”

The department’s dispatch center is fully staffed and has more people on standby to come in as needed, she added.

Southern California Edison officials determined the Monday night outages impacted 83,000 customers in Santa Barbara County and 150,000 customers in Ventura County, and more outages are possible as the Thomas Fire continues to burn near transmission lines. 

Most schools were open, but Santa Barbara City College decided to close its campus Tuesday morning due to the outages.

Santa Barbara city emergency services manager Yoli McGlinchey said the city’s infrastructure was doing well Tuesday, and that there are generators at all fire stations, the Santa Barbara Police Department, communications center, and all water and wastewater distribution sites.

She offered some tips to deal with periodic power outages, including:

» Make sure holiday lights and decorations are plugged into a surge protectors. If not, then unplug all non-essential decorations.

» Unplug appliances when not in use.

» Do not put extension cords under carpets. 

» Make sure that you are backing up any work on your computer and that your computer is plugged into a surge protector.

» Keep lights out if possible.

» Minimize the amount of time you open your refrigerator.  

» Avoid elevators, if possible, and take the stairs.

» During times of strong wind, secure patio furniture and hanging plants.

The United Way of Ventura County has set up a Thomas Fire Fund and texting campaign to raise money for victims of the wildfire. 

Donations can be made by texting UWVC to 41444, by calling 805.485.6288, and through the organization's website here. Checks can be sent to the United Way office, at 702 County Square Drive, Suite 100, Ventura, CA, 93003, with "Thomas Fire Fund" in the memo line. 

Click here to sign up for Noozhawks free breaking news text alerts to your cell phone.

Click here to sign up for Aware & Prepare alerts from Santa Barbara County emergency agencies. 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli 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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