From her backyard Santa Barbara native Cindy Enderby saw the Cave Fire approaching and thought, “Oh, here we go again.”
She and her husband, Bob, live in San Vicente Mobile Home Park, and once their cable went out, they knew it was time for them to go. While they were evacuating their home, however, Mrs. Enderby saw folks standing around.
“No life is worth waiting and seeing,” she said. “All it needed was another gust of wind.”
In her lifetime, Mrs. Enderby has seen several fires ravage the area, and she has learned over the years to act early in the face of disaster.
“It’s not my first rodeo. I’ve gone through so many fires…” Mrs. Enderby said.
As you grow older, “You don’t have the quick reaction. You have to err on the side of caution. … When you have the warning, you need to heed the warning.”
At the evacuation center that the American Red Cross set up at the Goleta Valley Community Center, Mr. and Mrs. Enderby joined other folks who heeded the warning.
“I’m scared to death,” said Nancy Goodhouse, who lives in Rancho Santa Barbara, the mobile home park near San Vicente.
Ms. Goodhouse remembered vividly the Painted Cave Fire that burned 5,000 acres in 1990. “The Painted Cave Fire came down the 101 and just stopped short of going into Rancho,” she said.
With Monday’s Cave Fire scorching more than 3,000 acres in the same territory, Ms. Goodhouse feared history was repeating itself.
“It was literally raining fire,” Mrs. Enderby recalled of the Painted Cave Fire.
Fewer than 20 people checked into the evacuation center Monday evening to sleep in the center’s auditorium, which was decorated for the holidays. Under dusty wreaths hanging on the walls, the evacuees slept on cots, trying to get warm under the blankets with the words “American Red Cross” etched on them.
Several people, however, were braving the cold and the winds in the parking lot of the center. Bob and Carolyn Wageneck, in their 80s and 60s respectively, were two of the folks sleeping in their cars Monday night.
Mr. Wageneck asked the American Red Cross about pet policies. While the evacuation center provides meals and a place to sleep, pets had to be checked in separately at the Santa Barbara Humane Society about a mile away. The Wagenecks could not bear placing Doc, their 6-year-old Australian shepherd, in the kennel, they said, especially after Doc has just overcome trauma of regularly being kenneled for so long before they got him.
“We’re just going to sleep here, and we’ll be fine,” Mr. Wageneck said with a smile.
The couple was preparing to spend the night in their red Chevy Equinox. Doc wagged his tail lovingly with his owners by his side. And the Wagenecks, despite having to evacuate their home at the edge of Hope Ranch, seemed at ease in the face of chaos. They told the News-Press that their faith gave them hope during times like these.
“Don’t worry about things too much,” said Mr. Wageneck.
Their faith has helped them through similar circumstances in the past as well. Like the Enderbys, this was not the Wagenecks’ first rodeo. The couple recalled the Painted Cave Fire, during which they fled to an evacuation center at UCSB. During this 1990 fire, the couple twice thought they would lose their house to the flames. Fortunately, they were proved wrong with each incident.
“We’ve been here 47 years. We’ve had a number of evacuations,” said Mr. Wageneck. “Once you’ve been through this a few times, you go, ‘That’s life.’ ”
Some local dignitaries were present at the center Monday night. Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murrillo lifted a pack of water bottles from the American Red Cross truck into the building. She said emergency operation centers have been activated in the city in case the fires affect communications lines.
“I heard there have been accidents,” said Ms. Murrillo, who added that people might be staring in shock and awe at the fire that could be seen from the highway. “People should focus on their driving.”
For the latest updates from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, call 805-681-5546.