The sixth-graders at Goleta’s Hollister School got more than they signed up for when a fire on Santa Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles interrupted a week-long camping trip Thursday. The 85 students, five staff members and 15 parents were eventually evacuated from the island late Thursday night. The group had been on the island since Monday, spending the week at the Catalina Island Marine Institute snorkeling, kayaking, hiking and participating in other outdoor activities.
Around 2 p.m., the fire alarm at the camp went off, alerting students to head to a predetermined location. While the fire was on the other side of the island, and moving away from the camp, the group was evacuated to another camp located roughly two miles away, where they were told they would eventually be able to return and finish with the camp.
CIMI is located in Toyon Bay, a ten-minute boat ride from the city of Avalon on the island. More than 4,000 acres were burned on the 76-square mile island. The cause of the fire is still being investigated.
It was eventually decided the group should be evacuated from the island, and with only the clothes they had on their backs, they left from Fox Landing at about 11:30 p.m. to head into Long Beach. Principal Ryan Sparre said those back in Goleta first heard about the fire about 2 p.m. Thursday, but it was difficult to find out how big and how close it was to the school children because of sketchy phone reception in the area.
When they found out the group would be returning to the mainland, Sparre and those still in Goleta arranged for a last second Santa Barbara Airbus and a Goleta school bus to pick them up. The boat arrived in Long Beach at about 1:45 a.m., and the two buses were safely back in Goleta by 4:45 Friday morning. The children were glad to be home, Sparre said. “It was a very long day for them. Everyone did a great job.”