City and county officials are likely to announce an evacuation order of the Tea Fire burn area sometime this evening. There was discussion of the evacuation warning being upgraded to an evacuation order at the Santa Barbara City Council meeting late this afternoon. Most residents in the burn area, and below it, are already aware of the need to be prepared to leave their homes – the warning has been in place since last night.
“We had rock falling without rain. The message is, when we head into these storms, it’s a decision we have to make about rainfall, which can be unpredictable,” County Flood Control Chief Tom Fayram said. “We have to make a decision based on the public’s health and safety.”
Fayram was concerned that residents may believe an evacuation order is too extreme, especially since the late afternoon rains have been mostly light. But with darkness falling, it will be difficult to deal with sliding rocks or boulders or mud flows, should those things happen, he said. An evacuation order would follow the philosophy of better-safe-than-sorry.
Fayram also said his department is keeping an eye on the Gap Fire watersheds in the Goleta Valley. Goleta city officials have indicated city staff are monitoring stream flows in the city and in areas feeding into Goleta.
City of Santa Barbara public information officer Nina Johnson told The Independent that Reverse 911 calls would be placed as soon as city and county emergency officials determine precisely which homes need to be evacuated. That number wasn’t ready as of 5 p.m. today, though. She could say, however, that the evacuation area would be smaller in size than the areas included in the evacuation warning area, which includes between 500 and 600 houses.
The Santa Barbara Red Cross will be setting up a shelter at the Santa Barbara High School gym for those who are ordered to leave their homes.