Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Non-profit groups helping victims of Alisal Brush Fire in Santa Barbara County

The remains of one of the homes destroyed by the Alisal Fire.
Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade
The remains of one of the homes destroyed by the Alisal Fire.

Because of smaller scope of losses, people who lost homes won't be able to get the same types of aid as Thomas and Woolsey Fire victims.

It was a difficult day for Joyce Orsua, and her family. It was the day they saw what the Alisal Brush Fire had done to the family’s 140-year-old cabin nestled in the Santa Ynez Mountains.

"We just burst into tears. That was just gone," said Orsua.

The nearly 17,000 acre blaze destroyed 13 homes, as well as a number of outbuildings. For impacted families, last October’s blaze was a huge disaster.

But, because the number of buildings lost was on the same scale as the massive Thomas, and Woolsey Fires, its victims aren’t getting they same type of recovery aid.

"The fire in comparison with the megafires across the state was too small to receive either a state or federal disaster declaration," said Abe Powell.

He and his wife Jessica found the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade in 2018 to help Montecito recovered from its deadly, and disastrous debris flow. Volunteers did everything from helping to search for missing victims of the disaster to clearing mud from homes.

Now, the Bucket Brigade is trying to help many of the Alisal Fire victims deal with the ruins of the homes, and other structures.

"Funds like FEMA grants or SBA loans or other assistance that would normally be provided in a natural disaster are unavailable to them," said Powell.

13 homes, as well as a number of outbuildings were destroyed by the Alisal Fire.
Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade
13 homes, as well as a number of outbuildings were destroyed by the Alisal Fire.

A coalition of groups joined in the effort, like Santa Barbara Channelkeeper. There are two parts to it. The first is insuring toxic waste runoff from the sites doesn't get into waterways during storms. The other is actually removing the contaminated debris.

"One of the priority issues that we wanted to address is that these sites, after a fire, can contain chemicals when it rains can enter our local watersheds and creeks," said Ben Pitterle, with Santa Barbara Channelkeeper.

He said Channelkeeper focused on setting up temporary containment structures to keep runoff from flowing off site.

Pitterlie says Heal the Ocean Santa Barbara bought supplies for the emergency efforts to corral polluted runoff from the sites of the destroyed structures.

The Fire Safe Council of Santa Barbara County, the Community Environmental Council, and Habitat for Humanity are also part of the Alisal Fire Assistance Fund Coalition.

Joyce Orsua says it’s still hard to believe her family’s 140 year old cabin is gone. Fortunately, firefighters saved the nearby home where she lives. But, she and her husband had been in the process of restoring the historic structure.

She says the property didn’t have fire insurance.

The Alisal Fire Assistance Fund is trying to raise about $150,000 to cover the costs associated with the cleanup costs for 11 property owners needing help. Organizers hope the community will step up to help with donations.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.