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Dramatic Rescue of Colleague’s Home from Jesusita Fire

Prof. Lindemann was able to save his house from the firestorm. See his story and a Santa Barbara Independent article about how.

The photos on the left are some shots taken by Al’s son Tim on the afternoon of Wed., May 6, when the fire hit Tunnel Road.

Al writes the following in an email:

The fire storm surrounded our house, with winds up to 100 miles per hour and flames 100 feet in the air, on all sides. It hit us with a speed and noise and power that defies description. I thought I was prepared, but there was no way to prepare psychologically for this.

My brother, a fire chief, and his son, a newly trained fireman, arrived ten minutes before the fire storm hit. Another fire department detachment came with water from a neighbor’s swimming pool, since the water from hydrant failed. Normally the main part of a fire storm lasts five to ten minutes. This one lasted about an hour. My brother, who has fought brush fires for thirty-five years, said he had never experienced anything like it. He and his son suffered minor burns, amazing in itself, in that they were out in the fire at its worst.

Our house was a fortress, well prepared, but we lost outbuildings (hay shed, tack room, etc.) and all our fruit trees, plants, etc. All of our large oaks are scorched but most did not actually burn. Houses in our area did burn, including those of some near neighbors, but in fact it is amazing how many survived with only parts of them burned, given the force of the firestorm.

The days immediately following were consumed with putting out spot fires everywhere, throughout the day and night — some of which consumed houses thought safe and thus not adequately observed.

But we are all (Barbara, my son Tim, and I) now well. We have consumed smoke and ash for five days, inside and outside the house, night and day, and are coughing a lot. Somehow the term “smoked-filled rooms” has taken on a new meaning.

Our donkeys broke out and fled before the storm, and, amazingly, survived. There are dead animals of course, many of whom were apparently entirely consumed (of some thirty goats, for example, the burned bodies of only a few have so far been found).

The Lindemanns were written up in a May 7, 2009 Santa Barbara Independent article:
Report from End of Tunnel Road: Residents and Firefighters Battle Flames All Night to Save Homes from Jesusita Fire,

with a brief follow-up on May 14 (scroll almost to the end for a photo of both donkeys).

An LA Times blog had a story on 5/7 about the Lindemanns’ donkeys: “Santa Barbara fire: Couple searches for missing family member.”

Other UCSB professors and staff were not so prepared nor so lucky. See this 5/12/09 Daily Nexus article: Fire Affects UCSB Affiliates.

See also this 5/12/09 Daily Sound article 30 brush-eating goats die in Mission Canyon (the headline is misleading, since many of the goats may have escapted). The goats had been purchased as part of a brush-clearing for fire abatement program.

hm 5/12/09, 5/14, 5/19