Heroes of the Rancho Fire

Harrowing Images from Within the Red Rock Blaze on Paradise Road

Frontlines of the Rancho Wildland fire.
Blessing Martin

Here is a first-person account with photographs of the Rancho Wildland fire from Shelly Elnicky and Blessing Martin, who were trapped on Paradise Road watching firefighters attack the blaze for nearly four hours. The fire is now fully contained, according to Inciweb.org, and maxed out at 482 acres. Thankfully, no structures were damaged and no injuries occurred. Investigators have determined that it was caused by humans, but are unclear whether it was accidental or intentional. Anyone with information should call 681-4150 or go to sbsheriff.org. Here is the harrowing report from the fire’s frontlines.

We were the first car of 20 behind the heroes, those firefighters from Santa Barbara and surrounding counties who were leading the “detained civilians” out of the Red Rock fire that started at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 30.

As the clouds of smoke started rolling over the canyon, we realized that trouble was well on the way. We got to the truck as fast as possible only to be stopped by the firefighters. They had us blocked in and contained us for about three-and-a-half hours. In the meantime, they had five airplanes and three helicopters working triple-time to saturate the fire, and protect the only road out.

At one point, a helicopter came in-between the canyon hills, not even a football field’s length away from all of us, and scooped a 300-gallon bucket of water out of the very pool we had spent the day swimming in. Too bad they didn’t get that shot for the paper – it was surreal and a true demonstration of the pilot’s skill.

The heroes were very calm and informative, which really helped keep everybody else calm. At about 8:30 p.m., they gave us the go-ahead to move out. There where two fire trucks ahead of us, allowing our vehicle to lead the remaining 19 cars out and through the flames. Everyone made it safely.

We just wanted Santa Barbara and beyond to really know how brave all these men and women truly are – ALL of them. Here is a genuine “thank you” to all of you that helped evacuate the 20 cars out of Red Rock and through the flames safely.

These are the first days of the rest of our lives,

Thank you,


Shelly Elnicky, Blessing Martin, Craig Gammel, Andrew Paul, Brent Olberding, and Lucy the dog


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