Alex Abatie, the Independent’s design director, reporting from the corner of Foothill Road and Alamar Avenue at 6 p.m., said that he can see a house on fire as flames come over the hill; he estimates that the flames are less than 100 yards from Foothill Road.
Ryan Neal, Indy intern, reporting from State Street below the Santa Barbara Mission, said that police cars have been blocking off streets leading up toward the foothills. Officers just blocked East Mission Street at about 6:45 p.m., using their cars to do so, and are directing traffic down from these streets, which are now in the mandatory evacuation area.
Some residents said they were headed to the beach hoping to avoid smoke, flames, and traffic. (Update: As of 7:30 p.m., the beach was both smoky and deserted, Neal reported.) Traffic up State toward Goleta is crowded, Neal said, and the southbound freeway is a mess, with rubberneckers holding cell phone cameras out the windows as they drive; five or six cars, which appear to have gotten into a fender-bender, are pulled off onto the shoulder between Las Positas and Mission Streets.
Meanwhile, on the lower Eastside, the Thrifty and the USA gas stations are closed.
Neal described “a scene straight out of a disaster area” on the upper Eastside, as residents–with flames visible above the Mission, and helicopters flying overhead–carried suitcases and crying children to cars. In a classic California scene, Neal reported, an open convertible full of young women drove out wearing bandanas over their faces against the smoke. “It’s really hot out here,” Neal added, “and the wind is just incredible.”
Traffic update: Neal reported at 7 p.m. that Highway 101 northbound exits are closed at Las Positas, Pueblo, and La Cumbre.