The Montecito Community Foundation and Montecito Association unveiled a plaque dedicated to the victims of the Thomas Fire and the Jan. 9 Montecito debris flow on Thursday afternoon.
The 20-by-31-inch bronze plaque also recognizes the actions of first responders and community volunteers in the aftermath of Santa Barbara County’s disasters. Included in the design is an oak leaf cluster symbolizing the strength and resilience of the Montecito community.
The plaque is installed on the north side of a park at the corner of East Valley and San Ysidro roads, an open space created by the Montecito Community Foundation, said president Stephen Hicks.
“We thought it was fitting that it’s an open area in the center of town and it also happens to be between the debris flow in the community, so it’s between the destruction,” Hicks said. “It was appropriate for a memorial for people to stop by and think about it tomorrow and in the years to come.”
The plaque reads, “Dedicated to the victims of the Thomas Fire of December 2017 and the subsequent Montecito Debris Flows of Jan. 9, 2018. We gratefully acknowledge the heroic actions of first responders and community volunteers.”
There was a brief ceremony Thursday as part of the unveiling, with the community invited to attend.
“We have all been fighting our private battles with the results of the fire and debris flow,” Hicks told Noozhawk after the ceremony. “This was an opportunity for the community to come together and share their experiences, thoughts and their contributions around this devastating set of events.
“We all go to events and get together in various ways, but the purpose of this event is to memorialize the fire and debris flows,” he said.
Rev. Aimée Eyer-Delevett, Rector at All Saints by the Sea Episcopal Church, talked about the church being temporarily used as a triage center for people with injuries from the debris flow and flooding in Montecito, since ambulances could not access other areas of the community due to the destruction.
“We were ground zero to a humanitarian crisis,” Eyer-Delevett said. “We the church were being called to do what the church does — tend the sick, soothe the suffering and give rest to the weary.”
The church at 83 Eucalyptus Lane advised Montecito residents to come to the site if they needed medical assistance.
“I’m seeing some faces here tonight that I haven’t seen since then, so bear with me,” Eyer-Delevett told a couple hundred or so residents.
Delevett said Jan. 9 “was the darkest hour for the community,” but “even in the darkest hour, there was a tremendous light shining.”
She also led the gathering in a moment of silence for the victims.
Montecito Association president Charlene Nagel also addressed the crowd and acknowledged the first responders and volunteers who contributed to relief efforts in the aftermath of the tragedies.
“Our community is resilient,” Nagel said. “First responder heroes, second responder heroes, third responder heroes, the tireless volunteers and we also had a community of neighbors who were concerned — I can’t thank you enough for your continuous support.”
— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.