Thomas Fire Causes Power Outages, Air Quality Warning across Santa Barbara

Smoke could be seen from the UCSB campus on Tuesday afternoon. (Gwendolyn Wu / Editor-in-Chief)

Gwendolyn Wu

A power outage plunged Santa Barbara and Ventura counties into darkness Monday night, less than one week before the start of fall quarter finals.

At 9:54 p.m, UCSB students and community members began reporting that the power was out. In some parts, the power returned several times over the next half-hour, before going out completely for an extended period of time.

Utilities company SoCal Edison reported that electricity was back on at 2:25 a.m, although brief power outages occurred several times Tuesday morning. Over 263,000 residents in Southern California were affected by the power outage.

The outage was attributed to the Thomas Fire, which burned 45,000 acres overnight in areas surrounding Ventura County and the Ojai valley and “impacted transmission lines,” according to SoCal Edison. Residents in the areas directly affected by the fire may be without power for days.

The Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District sent out an air quality warning on Tuesday morning, noting that smoke and ash from the fire would affect local air quality. The air above I.V. remained ashy throughout the day, prompting some residents to wear masks over their faces.

The Bottom Line first reported on social media that SoCal Edison estimated that power would be up by 1 a.m., according to an estimate from the ‘Check Power Outages’ section of the utility company’s website.

After the power had died entirely, many I.V. residents began congregating on the streets, cheering and shouting. Some residents set off fireworks into the night sky and others lit several couches on fire, according to county fire dispatch alerts — which later prompted the Isla Vista Community Services District (CSD) to ask residents to refrain from doing so.

“This type of behavior undermines the safe environment that all Isla Vista residents are entitled to,” CSD General Manager Jonathan Abboud wrote in a statement, urging residents to “be cognizant of the importance of community safety” of their neighbors.

UCSB Student Health sent out an email to students Tuesday morning announcing it would provide only limited services for the day. Appointments will be seen as scheduled, with some availability at the dental clinic and new prescriptions at the pharmacy. The lab will be closed.

Counseling and Psychological Services will also only offer limited emergency services, with some appointments being rescheduled. They cited poor air quality and the power outage as the reasons for their partial closure. There are no updates yet on when full services will resume, according to an email from CAPS.