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Santa Barbara is coastal, mountainous, semiarid, and situated close to fault lines. As such, the region has a long history of natural disasters, including storms, wildfire, and earthquakes. 

Worsened by drought and high winds, wildfire is our most common natural disaster. In the past three years alone, wildfires have burned hundreds of thousands of acres countywide, costing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and firefighting costs. 

After those fires burn away the grasses, chaparral, and trees, then come the debris flows, precipitated by ocean-born rainstorms that intensify as they collide with steep mountainsides. We will never forget January 9, 2018. In the smoldering wake of the Thomas Fire — then the largest wildfire in the history of state recordkeeping — a historic storm triggered the deadly 1/9 Debris Flow. And just two months ago, the Cave Fire, which raced down Highway 154 and caused evacuations from Ontare all the way to Fairview, created a new threat of debris flows for neighborhoods along creeks below the burn scar. 

All of this isn’t to strike fear into the hearts of Santa Barbarans. It’s only to remind us that we all should prepare ourselves for the inevitable next natural disaster. Don’t think it can’t happen here. It has. It does. It will again. Fortunately, we are a community full of helpful individuals and public, private, and nonprofit leaders dedicated to making disaster preparedness straightforward and affordable. This guide aims to gather many of those resources into a handy booklet that’s easy to understand.


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