The author's friends and family await firefighters on State Route 154, the air filled with smoke and the fire burning behind them, appearing frightfully close.

My family would like to express our thanks to all the firefighters and agencies that worked so hard to fight the Whittier Fire and are still working to put it completely out. With a home near Lake Cachuma, we got a first-hand view of the professionalism, skill, and dedication of all involved in containing the fire and limiting its damage.

We were driving to Los Angeles on July 8 to see a Dodger game when I received a call around 1:45 p.m. that a fire had broken out near Lake Cachuma. It spread quickly, Highway 154 was closed, and a mandatory evacuation order was issued. There was nothing we could do, so we halfheartedly watched the game, distracted by incoming calls about the fire status and worry.

Fortunately, our caretaker and family and friends at the property prepared the grounds and structures as best they could. In the early evening, a team of firefighters arrived, and our friends familiarized the crew with the structures and grounds. They finally drove away around 7 p.m., leaving the care of our home in the hands of the professionals.

Back in Santa Barbara, we stayed with friends and spent a sleepless night not knowing what to expect the next day. We were moved when the news broke that the kids who were trapped by the fire at the Circle V Camp had been rescued.

Early the next morning, I stopped by the City Fire Department on Carrillo Street and happened upon Chris Mailes, a battalion chief, and I explained to him where our house was. After a trip up to the fire, he later called to say our property was untouched, and we appeared to be out of immediate danger, though not out of the woods. It was an unnerving week as the fire crews fought the fire, and we waited for every update and briefing. We were able to return the next Sunday, eight days later, when the highway was open and the evacuation orders lifted.

Driving up the driveway and seeing our home safe and intact was very emotional. I was filled with gratitude to all the brave and dedicated people, professionals and volunteers, who worked tirelessly to fight this fire and the many other wildfires around the state this season.

It’s remarkable, and humbling, to see up close how much training, planning, work, and courage go into fighting these fires. Although extremely busy with their pressing duties, every person we had contact with was very patient and nice, extremely informative and tremendously helpful. Our thanks go out to all the agencies involved.

I also want to thank the news media for their reporting and keeping us informed, as well as the many other organizations that posted helpful information.

Thank you to all the people and agencies involved in this amazing effort. You do a remarkable job serving our community.


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