Community Members Support Montecito Mudslide Victims

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Image courtesy of National Guard | Flickr

Lauren Marnel Shores
Campus Beat Reporter

In the two weeks following the California mudslides, the Santa Barbara community has pulled together to provide relief to thousands living in Montecito.

For six weeks, the Thomas Fire ravaged 281,893 acres of Southern California, burning Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and taking 1,063 structures along within it. Among the collateral damage was much of the vegetation that maintained the stability of the hillsides surrounding the Santa Barbara area.

One week after Cal Fire announced that the Thomas Fire had been 92 percent contained, Santa Barbara County experienced heavy rainfall, reporting five inches of rain on the morning of Jan. 9. At one point, more than half an inch of rain fell in less than five minutes. The fires, having just weakened the affected area, took its final revenge when massive mudslides began occurring as flash floods pushed mud and debris down vulnerable hillsides.

The mudslides took the lives of 21 individuals  ranging in age from 3 years old to 89. Another 28 were injured. On top of the lives lost, 65 homes were destroyed, along with another 462 residences that were damaged.

Highway 101 was covered by 12 feet of debris from the mudslide, resulting in its two week closure until it was reopened on Sunday. With the closure of this key Central Coast route, local businesses began to suffer as product distributors were late to make their product deliveries.

In response, the community has been drawing on its resources to help those directly affected by the mudslides and Thomas Fire.

To help UCSB students directly, Associated Students approved funds to assist in the transportation for students, pulling from the original Thomas Fire fund approved on Dec. 13.

The IV Food Co-op has also been fundraising to help victims since Jan. 10, raising a total of $6,242 as of Monday through donations from the National Cooperative Bank, National Co+op Grocers, and patrons who have either rounded up their total for groceries, or directly added to the donation jar. In addition, the IV Food Co-op has been offering a 15-percent discount for any evacuees or people affected by the fire.

In partnership with the American Red Cross of the Pacific Coast and the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management, the Santa Barbara Food Bank has also been doing its part in emergency food distribution for those either displaced from their homes or facing economic hardship as a result of lost income and work because of the mudslide.

In addition, Sigma Phi Epsilon is providing UCSB students with an outlet to help victims with its Mudslide Relief Fundraiser at Lao Wang on Jan. 26 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Other plans for fundraisers and volunteer efforts include a benefit show at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club on Friday. GoFundMe campaigns for the victims’ families have also been created. For more information and links to fundraisers, visit local media outlet Noozhawk’s website.