Blazing saddle in the Goleta foothills. (Diego Topete / Noozhawk photo)

Don’t look now but the Los Angeles Dodgers are in sole possession of first place since the … Since the … Wait, it’s the first time this season.

Now that I’ve jinxed them, I must move on. According to our Google Analytics, the Noozhawk juggernaut had an audience of 180,269 readers this past week, with more than 65,000 of you on July 6-7 alone.

Here’s my take on your Top 5 stories — or 10, for that matter. This is my opinion column, so please don’t be surprised if you run into some.

1. 20 Structures Burned, Evacuations Ordered as Wildfire Rips Through Goleta Foothills

The scorching, insufferable heat wave of the last couple of weeks culminated in just about the worst possible way July 6.

After a series of record-setting high temperatures, fierce sundowner winds swept down the slopes of the Santa Ynez Mountains, sending thermometers past 100 degrees and evaporating the humidity from the air.

With palpable fear of fire rippling through just about every South Coast community not named Montecito or Carpinteria, a brush fire roared to life in the Goleta foothills around 8:45 p.m.

An army of firefighting resources immediately raced up North Patterson Avenue to the 1500 block of Holiday Hill Road, a semi-rural loop three-quarters of a mile above Cathedral Oaks Road.

But the ferocity of the sundowners made for a hellish confrontation. As evacuations were ordered, firefighters scrambled to keep up with the wind-driven flames as the blaze hop-scotched through the neighborhood.

Within minutes, a number of structures burned. When the smoke cleared early the next day, authorities reported that the Holiday Fire had destroyed or badly burned 20 residences and outbuildings. There were no injuries to humans recorded, however.

At the time, according to Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni, the then-80-acre wildfire was only about 5 percent contained, and there were more than 350 fire personnel determined to put it out.

The wildfire eventually grew to 113 acres and was contained for good on July 11.

The final tally was 10 homes destroyed and three damaged, with another 14 outbuildings beyond salvage. It was quite remarkable that the toll was not higher.

The cause of the wildfire is under investigation.

In addition to Noozhawk’s first story, reported jointly by our Giana Magnoli and Tom Bolton, there actually were five Holiday Fire stories in our Top 10:

» Santa Barbara County, Gov. Jerry Brown Declare State of Emergency for Goleta’s Holiday Fire (2)

» Fleeing the Flames: A Doctor’s Harrowing Escape from Holiday Fire (3)

» County Lifts Most Evacuation Orders for Holiday Fire as Containment Jumps to 80% (8)

» Spared Residents Describe Split-Second Decisions, Actions Made as Holiday Fire Bore Down (9)

» Click here to sign up for free Noozhawk breaking news text alerts to your phone.

2. Goleta Man Commits Suicide Shortly After Being Booked Into Santa Barbara County Jail

A suspect arrested in an alleged elder abuse case apparently took his own life July 5 after being booked into Santa Barbara County Jail.

According to Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover, deputies arrested Alexander Ricardo Braid, 45, of Goleta, on suspicion of elder abuse and disrupting a wireless communication device.

Hoover said he was booked just after 7 p.m. and screened by the jail’s medical staff.

“He was uncooperative and was placed in a cell by himself,” she said, adding that a short time later he was discovered unresponsive from an apparent suicide attempt.

Life-saving measures were taken immediately, but American Medical Response paramedics pronounced Braid dead about an hour later.

Authorities are investigating the cause and circumstances of the death. Lab and toxicology reports are pending.

Click here for suicide prevention information and resources that are available 24/7.

3. Lawsuit Filed for Dos Pueblos Student Injured in ‘Microburst’ Storm in Santa Barbara

Alyssa Nuño

Alyssa Nuño was injured in a freak incident during a freak storm. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk file photo)

A freak “microburst” storm caused havoc, panic and extensive damage along the Santa Barbara waterfront last Labor Day weekend. A Goleta teenager was severely injured in the chaos.

Alyssa Nuño, 17, and her family were spending the day at West Beach on Sept. 3 when the thunderstorm struck with 80 mph winds. Everyone scattered but, when the storm passed, Nuño was nowhere to be found.

The Dos Pueblos High School student eventually was discovered buried under a kayak and other debris to the east of Sea Landing. In addition to numerous broken bones, she had a serious brain injury.

The teen was rushed to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, and then flown by helicopter to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

The girl and her mom have since filed the inevitable lawsuit, seeking damages from the City of Santa Barbara and a number of aquatic-related recreational companies that stored equipment in the area.

Alleging negligence and dangerous condition of public property, the complaint was filed earlier this year by Harris Personal Injury Lawyers, initially with 10 defendants. Five of them — including the County of Santa Barbara — have since been dismissed without prejudice.

September will be the next court date for the remaing defendants: the city and its Waterfront Department, Cal Coast Adventures LLC, Santa Barbara Adventure Co. Inc., Santa Barbara Outrigger Canoe Club and Truth Aquatics Inc. under the DBA of Sea Landing.

According to the complaint, Nuño was running for cover when stacked watercraft “flew off the racks and collided with (her), causing serious and life-altering injuries.” The suit goes on to state that the defendants “failed to reasonably secure the watercraft on or to the racks.”

The lawsuit is seeking $50 million in general damages, loss of earnings and earning capacity, along with more than $728,000 in medical expenses.

4. 3 People Killed, 1 Seriously Injured in Santa Maria Crash


This is not what you want to see late at night. Or ever. (Santa Maria Fire Department photo)

A terrible late-night crash devastated a Filipino family that had just converged on Santa Maria for a reunion. A fourth family member was injured in the July 6 wreck, and the driver of a second vehicle later died of his injuries.

Santa Maria police said emergency personnel were dispatched about 11:20 p.m. to the intersection of South Blosser and Stowell roads on the city’s westside. There they found a horrific scene, the result of what authorities described as a violent, high-speed collision between a Cadillac Escalade and a Toyota pickup truck.

Three passengers in the Escalade were pronounced dead in their seats: Leonicelle Abaigar, 47, of Rosenberg, Texas, and her 13-year-old daughter, Andrea; and Necitas Santa Maria, 52, of Renton, Wash.

The SUV’s driver was taken to Marian Regional Medical Center for treatment of minor to moderate injuries.

Police Sgt. Duane Schneider said the pickup driver — identified as Jesse Angel Plata Jr. 27, of Arroyo Grande — was flown by a medical helicopter to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, but he died a few hours later.

Moments before the wreck, authorities said a police officer had observed a Toyota Tundra pickup driving recklessly on westbound Stowell Road near the intersection of South Broadway.

Santa Maria police are investigating the circumstances of the crash. Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 805.928.3781 x2297.

5. Vacant Macy’s Building a Cornerstone Opportunity to Reimagine Downtown Santa Barbara


A picture of decline. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Start a conversation about the travails and challenges of downtown Santa Barbara, and Macy’s will quickly become the focus.

Before closing for good last year, the department store had been an anchor — and original — tenant of Paseo Nuevo, looming over the corner of State and West Ortega streets from its imposing, three-story height and largely windowless walls.

I never cared much for its fortress-like architecture, but the 135,000-square-foot edifice is even more formidable these days, what with paint-peeling stucco, papered-over doors and window displays, and obvious emptiness.

There has been no shortage of ideas and questions about what might be done with the place. A Target store, millennial housing, a public marketplace, a hotel, even a new police station have been suggested. It would be cool if Noozhawk had an escalator in our nest, but I think our budget is more in the range of a fireman’s pole.

As part of our Reimagine: Santa Barbara project, we sent our Josh Molina on a shopping spree-type quest for information. We were curious what were among the seemingly most serious concepts and proposals.

It turns out the professional opinions are as varied as the public’s, but consensus does appear to be forming around a mixed-use future of retail, office, housing and hospitality.

“Macy’s is different than the other large spaces downtown due to its multiple stories and unique infrastructure,” explained Adam Geeb, director of asset management at Sima Corp.

“I can’t imagine a single use for the entire thing, but separating out the multiple levels/sections into a variety of uses would seem to be a feasible direction.”

Click here for Noozhawk’s Reimagine: Santa Barbara project.

                                                                 •        •        •

We’re Hiring

As mentioned previously, Noozhawk business development vice president Kim Clark is searching for an experienced, detail-oriented marketing assistant to join the sales team. Kim can be contacted at

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Over 7,800 Acres Burned as Whittier Fire Rages Out of Control Near Lake Cachuma.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

This sounds like something Riley the Wonder Malamute would do: Dogs Steal Mail Carrier’s Lunch, Then Their Apology Note Goes Viral.

                                                                 •        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

My Instagram feed sweltered through the dog days of summer this past week. But I also stumbled on the Montecito Community Microwave Initiative and stopped by the infamous 700 Picacho Lane for my #mailboxesofmontecito2018 series. #HITYL

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

Unbearably cute, but cub caddies don’t make the most reliable assistants on the greens. HT to our Tom Bolton for his fore-sight in passing this on to me.

YouTube video

(Andi Dzilums video)

                                                                 •        •        •

How You Can Help Noozhawk

Talk is cheap. Professional news gathering is not. If you like what you’re reading on Noozhawk and think our reporting is essential to the community, please support our work by becoming a member of our Hawks Club.

While most of Noozhawk’s revenue comes from advertising and sponsorships, we believe that reader contributions are a vital source of support — financially and fundamentally.

Your loyalty membership helps us continue to provide you with unmatched local news and in-depth reporting on the issues that you care about.

Please note that personal contributions to Noozhawk are not deductible as charitable donations.

Thank you for your support.

— 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

William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk Publisher

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