Disaster clean-up continues in areas heavily affected by the massive 2018 debris flows in Montecito.
The Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade organized clean-up efforts with volunteers planting and mulching native grasses, shrubs and trees at the Casa Dorinda nature preserve Saturday. The retirement community at 300 Hot Springs Road is adjacent to a public open space and hiking trails.
Some of the approximately 22-acre nature preserve was damaged by the flash flooding and debris flows and community efforts are assisting the recovery.
Nearly two years after the deadly disaster, the space is bouncing back and hundreds of new plants were put in the ground.
Saturday’s family-friendly workday was the final planting for the habitat restoration project. The project began in February 2018, said Abe Powell, founder of the Bucket Brigade.
Equipped with protective gloves and dust masks, residents of all ages were working as a team.
“I’m happy to see so many people willing to come out and still caring about this situation because most people have forgotten about the recovery,” Powell told Noozhawk. “The reality is most people haven’t started rebuilding yet in the community.”
The open space is owned and managed by Casa Dorinda, Chief Executive Officer Brian McCague said.
After the debris flows, Casa Dorinda managed and funded the clean-up and removal of the majority of the debris, mud, rock and other materials from the open space, McCague said.
Montecito has been on a long road to recovery following the 2017 Thomas Fire and the Jan. 9, 2018, flash flooding and debris and mud flows.
Residents are helping the community-recovery process.
“To have these signs of support and assistance from the community reminds the people who are still struggling to get back that people still care,” Powell said. “We remember them and we are still working together.”
The disaster killed 23 people and destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes just weeks after the Thomas Fire burned most of the vegetation off the mountains above Montecito.
Some of the worst damage occurred near Casa Dorinda along Montecito Creek on Jan. 9, 2018. One of the hardest hit areas was at the intersection of Hot Springs and Olive Mill roads, where residents had been under a voluntary evacuation warning that morning.
Debris, rocks, trees and thick mud were unleashed from the fire-scarred hills above Montecito. Cars were washed away and homes were crushed.
“A lot of the people who perished were found here, so this is an emotional place for the community,” Powell said of Saturday’s project location. “It has a lot of significance to all of us.”
For the first time, Santa Barbara resident Michelle Dias assisted with the planting.
Dias, who was wearing a red-colored Bucket Brigade T-shirt, works in Montecito and had moved from Las Vegas just two months before the Thomas Fire.
“Right after I moved, there were these nature events,” said Dias, who is originally from Brazil. “It’s beautiful to see the community get together and I want to be part of it.”
A Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade member donated the plants from Santa Barbara natives, Watershed Environmental created a habitat restoration plan and Cold Springs Landscapes also supported the effort.
Watershed Environmental and Cold Springs Landscaping are paid contractors of Casa Dorinda, according to McCague. Both work as part of Casa Dorinda’s master plan project and funded by Casa Dorinda, he said.
— 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.