Objects in view are not as close as they appear. (Kim Clark / Noozhawk photo via Instagram)

Noozhawk’s Rey Fire stories dominated our news coverage over the last eight days, with each one changing positions in our Top 20 as often as Donald Trump’s flip-flop-floundering on immigration in the last 48 hours. I blame Colin Powell.

According to our Google Analytics, there were 142,979 people who read Noozhawk this past week. Here’s my take, as such, on your top five stories:

1. In Spite of Menacing Appearance of Smoke, Rey Fire Burning Away from Populated Areas

For more than a week, the Rey Fire has been chewing up the Santa Barbara County backcountry. As of Aug. 26, it had burned more than 33,000 acres but its containment was estimated at just 39 percent.

Since igniting Aug. 18 along Paradise Road about five miles east of Lake Cachuma, the fire’s trajectory has been to the north and the east, deeper into Los Padres National Forest land.

Last weekend provided the most impressive evidence that another wildfire was on the loose, with heavy smoke blanketing the Santa Ynez Valley and massive pyrocumulus clouds towering menacingly over the South Coast.

Although residences, ranches and campgrounds in the area were evacuated, few actual structures have been threatened. Buildings reportedly were damaged on the remote Ogilvy Ranch, on Mono Creek about 10 miles north of Montecito, but the extent was not known as of Aug. 25.

Nearly 2,000 fire personnel have been deployed, with many of them working on contingency containment lines near P-Bar Flats and the Pendola Jeep Trail east of the active blaze.

The fire’s cause remains under investigation, but there are indications it may have been sparked when a large part of an oak tree fell, pulling down power lines near the White Rock Picnic Area along Paradise Road.

» Click here for an interactive fire map from ENPLAN. Zoom in and click the fire symbols for further details about the Rey Fire and its progression.

» Click here for our Rey Fire photo gallery.

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2. Alleged Wrong-Way Driver Arrested in 6-Car Crash on Highway 101 in Santa Barbara

An Ojai woman was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence the night of Aug. 21 following a multivehicle demolition derby during an alleged 1½-mile wrong-way jaunt on Highway 101 in Santa Barbara.

Authorities say southbound cars swerved right and left to avoid a northbound Ford Crown Victoria, which still sideswiped four oncoming vehicles before slamming head-on into a Chevrolet Cruze near Mission Street.

California Highway Patrol Sgt. Jim Richards said 22-year-old Amanda Rose Valenzuela was arrested at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, where she had been taken for treatment of injuries from the major head-on collision.

According to Richards, the CHP received numerous 9-1-1 reports around 8:20 p.m. of a wrong-way driver in the vicinity of Garden Street. Before nearly a dozen patrol units could get there just minutes later, the damage was done.

The other drivers — including 27-year-old Karissa Peach of San Francisco, the victim of the head-on crash — had only minor injuries and were treated at the scene.

“There were indications … that led CHP officers to suspect alcohol intoxication may have played a significant role in this collision,” Richards said, adding that Valenzuela was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol causing an injury.

The case remains under CHP investigation.

Change of scene ahead for Zaca Lake Retreat’s lodge. (Visit Santa Barbara photo)

Change of scene ahead for Zaca Lake Retreat’s lodge. (Visit Santa Barbara photo)

3. Zaca Lake Lodge Destroyed in Fire May Be Familiar to Horror Flick Fans

The rustic lodge at Zaca Lake Retreat may be a pile of ashes now but the structure lives on in Hollywood films as the spooky setting for Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and The Creature from the Black Lagoon, among other famed fright flicks.

The wooden building was destroyed in an Aug. 17 blaze, which sparked an adjacent five-acre brush fire.

Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

The picturesque, private Zaca Lake Retreat is operated by the nonprofit Zaca Lake Foundation and recently has been rented out to groups for company retreats, weddings and family reunions. It’s also available for filming and commercial photo shoots.

Coffee Cat, on its last life. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Coffee Cat, on its last life. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

4. Coffee Cat Restaurant in Santa Barbara Will Close at Month’s End

For more than two decades, Coffee Cat has occupied one corner of Anacapa and Anapamu streets, opposite what should be three prime sources of customers: the Santa Barbara County Administration building, the county Courthouse and the Santa Barbara Central Library.

It’s also a block away from the office of my friend, Ben Romo, who — for years — pretty much lived at the place.

In spite of all that support, Coffee Cat, at 1201 Anacapa St., will be closing up shop at the end of the month.

“The shop needed a financial investment,” Krista Fritzen, who bought Coffee Cat in 2003 and co-owns the store with her husband, told our Brooke Holland. “It’s hard to close it.”

I’m not sure where Ben and the rest of Coffee Cat’s regulars will scatter to now, but they’ll be walking at least another block.

“We would like to thank our amazing customers and staff for your loyalty and friendship, we will miss our Coffee Cat family,” Fritzen wrote on a sign posted at the front counter. “It has been an honor to be a part of this special community.”

Kiley Neushul flashes a gold-medal grin at coach Adam Krikorian after Team USA’s victory in the Rio Olympics. (Peter Neushul photo)

Kiley Neushul flashes a gold-medal grin at coach Adam Krikorian after Team USA’s victory in the Rio Olympics. (Peter Neushul photo)

5. Santa Barbara Water Polo Stars Win Gold With USA Women’s Team in Rio

Santa Barbara has long been a water polo powerhouse. Thanks to the Olympian efforts of Kami Craig, Sami Hill and Kiley Neushul, that Golden Age is as shiny as ever.

Our local heroes powered the U.S. Olympic Women’s Water Polo Team to the gold medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics, the team’s second-straight Olympic title and the first time that’s ever been accomplished.

Neushul, a Dos Pueblos High School alumna and three-time national champion at Stanford University, scored three goals in the final, a 12-5 victory over Italy.

Craig, a Santa Barbara High alum and former USC star, added another. Hill, a Dos Pueblos High alum and former UCLA Bruin, had two key saves in goal.

On behalf of our readers, I’d also like to recognize the contributions of Neushul’s dad, Peter, who has been a stalwart pool reporter, photographer and videographer for Noozhawk at every step of the way on this year’s journey to Olympic glory. Your daughter may have the medal to show for it, Peter, but you’re a Hawk Star. Thank you!

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Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Motorcyclist Nabbed in Santa Barbara After High-Speed Chase from Santa Maria.

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Sounds like shadeless self-promotion: How Sunflowers Track the Sun Across the Sky.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

This mama moose has a hard time keeping up with calf-speed.


A video posted by Browning (@browningfirearms) on

(Browning Firearms video via Instagram)

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

Bill Macfadyen

William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk Publisher

Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at wmacfadyen@noozhawk.com, and follow him on Instagram: @bill.macfadyen. The opinions expressed are his own.