Recovery continues to be taken a day at a time, “sometimes a minute at a time,” according to Blanca Flor Benedict, the mother of Carla Hoffman, who, along with her husband, Lance, experienced the gravest of injuries related to the Tea Fire three weeks ago. The two received second- and third-degree burns as they tried to leave their home. The husband and wife’s status has been upgraded from critical to serious and both are scheduled for skin graft surgery later this week.
Lance, who is in a more serious condition than his wife and endured more extensive third-degree burns, is intermittently conscious, but able to breathe only a few breaths without the assistance of a ventilator. He still has a fever, but doctors believe that is the result of burns themselves, not infection. Lance was able to have his face dressings removed, revealing a portrait his mother called “beautiful.” He is responsive to simple questions by slow blinks, though he cannot yet focus his vision. Carla has been taken off a ventilator and is breathing on her own, though her lungs are still sensitive because she suffers from asthma. Carla, a comics buff, has also been smiling, and already envisioning her hospital release, which she hopes will be in time for the upcoming Star Trek flick.
The Hoffmans are expected to fully recover, but rehabilitation and hospital time is costly- and that’s not even mentioning that the couple lost the home in which they were living. A relief fund established at the Santa Barbara Bank & Trust has been established, and multiple fundraisers have been held to aid the couple in reducing their growing expenses. The Arlington Theatre will host a screening of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as a benefit for the couple on Monday, December 15, at 7 p.m. Tickets for the movie cost $15 and include a raffle drawing, while a set number of $25 tickets will additionally include a 5:45 p.m. reception, with all of the proceeds going toward the Hoffman Fund.
Westmont College-a community that has also suffered greatly as a result of the fire-has also responded. Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and neighbors gathered Monday for an emotional chapel service of “Hope and Renewal.” They honored firefighters for their work and gave thanks that no lives were lost in the fire. Classes were set to resume Monday after having been cancelled since the day following the fire. The fire, which began near the campus, destroyed eight campus buildings and 15 faculty homes. A total of 62 students, in addition to several staff members and a retired professor, lost their residences in the fire.
As of press deadline, there still had been no charges filed against the 10 implicated by Sheriff Bill Brown with starting the fire. Nine of the group have been identified as students of Santa Barbara City College, although their names won’t be released by authorities until charges are filed.
According to officials, a group of 18- to 22-year-olds had a bonfire sometime late in the night of November 12 or early morning of November 13 and thought they had extinguished the flames. More than 12 hours later, stiff Sundowner winds kicked up embers that remained from the bonfire, and lit nearby brush on fire. The fire went on to destroy 230 homes in Montecito and Santa Barbara.
The city has issued 95 demolition permits, and staff will be presenting its proposed rebuilding plan process to the single-family design board Monday. The county thus far contacted 65 of the 80 property owners who lost homes, and has issued 81 demolition permits for 44 parcels. A demolition permit is needed for each building. No other permits have yet been issued by the county, according to spokesperson William Boyer, who said the county continues to have daily internal meetings to speed the rebuilding process. “We continue to look for whatever we can do to help.”