Santa Barbara Mobilizes Buses to Shuttle Eastside Evacuees to Shelters

As the Thomas Fire Moves Towards the City, Officials Are Mobilizing Resources

The shelter set up in buildings behind UCSB's Rec Cen has space for 1,000 people.

As the Thomas Fire continues to burn above Westmont College, Spanish-speaking city workers are informing Eastside residents about evacuating warnings in areas east of Salinas Street and north of Highway 101. In the city, 20,000 residents are under mandatory evacuation orders.

There are buses taking Eastside residents to the shelter located at UCSB, where more than 100 people and many dogs were staying as of 1 p.m. Saturday. They have space for 1,000 evacuees. According to community advocate Alejandra Guiterrez, Salinas residents have evacuated. Power went out on the Eastside earlier, she said, but it was back on at about 12:30 p.m.

“The Eastside is the most vulnerable,” city public information officer Anthony Wagner said, because the information is disseminated first in English, then in Spanish. Latino activists have informed city officials that they “are meeting their mark” in terms of spreading information, Wagner said.

An emergency operations center was established Saturday morning at the city’s fire station. Standing over large maps of the city’s predawn evacuation zones, dozens of city staff were being briefed. There, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider created a video of the evacuation warnings and mandatory orders issued Saturday. The information was translated in Spanish. Information is being shared on Spanish speaking radio, Wagner added.

While the overall situation is tenuous, Wagner said, “We feel our urban areas are isolated from risk.” Hundreds of fire engines and personnel are throughout the backside of the Rivieria to “preserve life and property,” he added. At a town hall meeting at San Marcos High School earlier this week, an incident commander indicated that $46 billion dollars worth of public and private property and infrastructure was at risk in the region.

There have not been any structures lost in the City of Santa Barbara proper.

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