Motorcycle crash
Deadly crash scene in Goleta. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

9/11. Patriot Day.

After 19 years, I haven’t forgotten a thing.

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Of course 2020 would be California’s worst wildfire year in history.

As of Sept. 11, a record 5,300 square miles of the state have burned — a mass of land almost as large as Connecticut. Thousands of structures have been destroyed and, tragically, at least 19 people have been killed. All in about a month.

Aside from local firefighters deployed throughout California, Santa Barbara County has managed to remain mostly on the sidelines so far. We’ve certainly had our share of heartbreak and disaster these last three years, but that counts for exactly nothing when the flames erupt.

We know you’re concerned — as well you should be — because readership of Noozhawk’s recent fire coverage has been off the charts.

Since our launch in 2007, Noozhawk has proven over and over how valuable a service our professional journalists provide during life-threatening emergencies. Our battle-tested team remains on guard, ready to bring you the most accurate and up-to-date information about any local threats and incidents.

We know that you count on our wildfire reporting. This is necessary work that strives to keep our communities as safe as possible — especially at a time of already heightened danger.

Can’t-miss reporting like this is made possible by readers like you. Can we count on you to invest in your local news lifeline today?

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Your financial contribution, at any amount, will keep Noozhawk going and growing.

According to our Google Analytics, there were 130,373 of you reading Noozhawk this past week. What follows is my recap of your Top 5 stories during the previous seven days. As a reminder, this is my opinion column and not a news story.

1. Motorcyclist Killed in Collision on Cathedral Oaks Road in Goleta

A Goleta motorcyclist was killed in a fiery collision with a pickup truck Sept. 4 near Dos Pueblos High School.

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s spokeswoman Raquel Zick told our Tom Bolton that the crash occurred just before 4 p.m. on Cathedral Oaks Road at King Daniel Lane, a few blocks west of the school.

She said the motorcyclist — later identified as 58-year-old Daniel Harris of Goleta — was traveling east on Cathedral Oaks when an oncoming Dodge pickup truck turned left toward King Daniel, directly in his path.

Harris was declared dead at the scene, she said.

“The collision caused the motorcycle to catch fire, which then spread to a nearby tree,” said Zick, who added that county firefighters quickly put out the flames.

The pickup driver’s identity was not released, but he remained at the scene with investigators.

The Sheriff’s Department is investigating the circumstances of the collision.

2. Man Found Dead at Gaviota State Beach Was Suspect in Double Homicide

A suspect in a Sept. 6 Anaheim double homicide was found dead in Santa Barbara County a few hours later. Authorities believe the Salt Lake City man died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

As our Tom Bolton first reported, Anaheim police Sgt. Shane Carringer said 57-year-old Jorge Pino, whose body was discovered at Gaviota State Park about 10:30 a.m., was suspected of killing his former girlfriend and her new boyfriend.

Carringer said 47-year-old Maria Ernestina Ramirez and 40-year-old Efrain Hernandez-Ramirez were found shot to death inside an Anaheim apartment earlier that morning. Despite the coincidental last names, the Ramirezes were not related.

Pino and Ramirez “had been in a romantic relationship for a number of years that had ended in the last couple of months,” Carringer said.

Anaheim police issued a statewide all-points bulletin for Pino, and his vehicle and body were found at the park.

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s spokeswoman Raquel Zick said in a tweet that Pino apparently had killed himself.

It was not known whether he had any connection to Santa Barbara County, but the double homicide remains under investigation in Orange County.

3. Bill Macfadyen: What’s in Store for Santa Barbara’s Paseo Nuevo?

Paseo Nuevo

Talking shopping at Paseo Nuevo. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

I told you that the future of Santa Barbara’s Paseo Nuevo has big-time community interest. Otherwise I’d suspect it was my writing that was the draw, and I know that’s not the case.

4. State Street Motel Is Focus of Shooting Investigation in Santa Barbara

Sunset Motel raid

Room service. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

If you’re checking yourself into the hospital with a gunshot wound at 6 o’clock in the morning, you know it’s not gonna be one of your better days.

That’s the scenario Santa Barbara police encountered the morning of Sept. 9 when officers were summoned to the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital emergency room.

Elias Robles

Prison parolee Elias Robles’ freedom will be short-lived. We hope. (Santa Barbara Police Department photo)

There they found a gunshot victim who had suffered “very serious, but not life-threatening” wounds, SBPD spokesman Anthony Wagner told our Tom Bolton.

A subsequent investigation led officers to the Sunset Motel, at 3504 State St., across Toyon Drive from the 7-Eleven convenience store.

Police cleared out a room at the motel, and questioned the occupants before sending in a robot and a K-9 unit to confirm it was empty.

One of the apparent occupants, 28-year-old prison parolee Elias Robles of Santa Barbara, was arrested on a number of charges, including being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, illegal possession of a loaded firearm, and possession of a sawed-off shotgun, Wagner said.

Police also found 11 ounces of suspected crystal methamphetamine.

As a parolee, Robles was being held without bail at County Jail.

The gunshot victim’s identity was not disclosed, and Wagner declined to explain his connection to the motel.

5. Major Injuries Reported in Head-On Crash on Highway 154 Near Santa Barbara

Highway 154 crash

Highway 154. Again. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

A Sept. 6 head-on collision on Highway 154 near Santa Barbara sent three people to the hospital, one of them with major injuries.

As our Tom Bolton first reported, a sedan and a small sport utility vehicle slammed into each other just before 1:30 p.m. about a mile north of Cathedral Oaks Road.

Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Daniel Bertucelli said one crash victim suffered critical injuries and two others had moderate injuries. At least one victim required extensive extrication from the wreckage.

All three were transported by American Medical Response ambulances to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

Few other details were available. The California Highway Patrol is investigating the cause and circumstances of the collision.

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Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Vegetation Fire Blackens 200 Acres East of Highway 101 in Buellton Area.

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

The reason we must never forget: Teaching the Story of 9/11 to a New Generation.

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Best of Bill’s Instagram

@sadiethealaskanmalamute turned 1 on Sept. 7, and wasted no time blowing up my Instagram feed this past week.

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Watch It

Apocalypse, now. The sky’s been surreal in Santa Barbara County, but nothing like the Bay Area. HT to my friend, Travis Smith.

YouTube video

(Terry Tsai video)

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Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
If you value dependable local reporting, will you support Noozhawk today?
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!

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

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