In Old Town Goleta, Goleta Valley Community Center has been set up as a Red Cross evacuation site for those fleeing the Cave Fire. The center, which is currently sheltering around 40-45 evacuees and people affected by the fire, provides meals, beds, smoke masks, and staff that can connect evacuees to resources with information about the fire. Organizations like Direct Relief and the Salvation Army were also on hand to help contribute resources.
Wildfires, which are increasing in both intensity and frequency across California due to climate change, can be experiences filled with both trauma and uncertainty. Carla Andersen, a behavioral wellness worker stationed at Goleta Valley Community Center, said that the uncertainty surrounding the fate of their homes can be difficult for many people. “For a lot of these people, not having any information about whether or not their home is there any more can be very difficult emotionally,” said Carla. “It can also be difficult when these disasters happen during the holidays.”
Despite the presence of evacuation centers, fires can still be a time of uncertainty for evacuees. Clarice Treiber, a resident of a neighborhood near Old San Marcos Road, evacuated around 7 pp.m. on Monday and soon found herself stuck in backed-up traffic as flames engulfed the hillside. “We’ve been evacuated 7 or 8 times now, but it’s still not always clear what we’re supposed to do after we’ve gotten out of the evacuation zone,” she said.
Treiber, who owns an RV, says she and her husband drove to a parking lot outside of Target to spend the night, but were kicked out by a security guard at 1:30 a.m. “It would be nice if there was a particular area set up for people who are in their RVs,” she said.
Fires can also pose unique challenges for people from vulnerable communities. Senior citizens, for example, can have difficulties with mobility, and members of the undocumented community have concerns about interacting with government services at a time when they are most essential. “We work with people from all kinds of backgrounds, and we have to keep in mind that people face different sets of challenges during fires,” said Cydney Justman, a senior emergency response manager for Direct Relief.
The Cave Fire has burned over 4,300 acres, and is currently at 10 percent containment, as of Tuesday afternoon. Thus far, no injuries have occurred. The fire is being fought by over 600 firefighters, with units from surrounding counties being brought in to help.