Santa Barbara is a chaparral environment so it’s understandable when there are fires that periodically sweep the area. Sometimes they happen due to natural causes and other times its due to negligence with a cigarette, bonfire, or something that could have been prevented. Regardless they affect families and communities who live within or nearby those zones. Last year Southern California saw fires that continued into the start of the new year, but now our communities are faced with floods. With 48 people still missing and 17 confirmed dead, this is becoming an issue that affects us on an emotional level. Among the missing and dead are sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins.
Not only is it damaging our communities, but the ecosystem is severely affected as well. The ash that had been piling up has been washed away into the oceans. To make matters worse, permits were obtained during this emergency situation to allow the dumping of all sediment on local beaches. This permit has allowed emergency crews to place 300,000 cubic yards of sedimentary deposit into the shoreline, which will directly affect the ocean’s flora and fauna. If this isn’t alarming, what about the families and companies who rely on the ocean to be clean for their livelihood? This involves all venders and companies that support the Saturday Fishermen’s Market, Fish SB, The Santa Barbara FisHouse, The Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, The Santa Barbara Boathouse, The Hungry Cat, Downey’s, Local Wild Seafood, Whole Foods, Lazy Acres, Gelson’s Market, and The Santa Barbara Fish Market to name a few.
While authorities at the Santa Barbara County claim that the deposits will only consist of wet or dry dirt or mud without rocks, debris, or vegetation, they neglect to mention what the eye cannot see. Ash can be created in two ways. If it burns higher than 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, oxides will remain, while if fires are lower than 840 degrees, then inorganic compounds such as calcium, magnesium, and sodium will remain. Whether it mixes with water due to its hydrophobic or hydrophilic properties, the runoff will still go into streams, rivers, and oceans. This can adversely affect drinking water, crops, and the ocean.
Choosing to move the excess sediment from the 101 and mudslide areas is clearly harmful for the environment. The decision was most likely made when weighing in that the road closures would affect commuters, business, and overall transportation in the region since the 101 is a crucial freeway in the Santa Barbara County area. Taking a ferry around or using the five as a detour may be too much of an inconvenience, which is another possible reason that this was approved.
While my heart goes to the families and communities that have been affected, it is important to consider how we find solutions to these problems. Short term solutions should be made with the priority for human lives and safety, but thereafter attempts should be made to restore what is necessary. I am shocked that agencies are not commenting on how ash or other pollutants that can be found in soil can harm the oceans. That type of vocabulary has been left out of official statements. I hope environmentally conscious efforts can be made to restore our communities and prevent situations like this to be handled in safer and cleaner ways.
Taking a step back from pollution issues, rescue efforts are still underway and the emergency responders deserve respect and our support throughout this time. The families of those affected should be given quarters when needed so if at all possible please extend what you can, whether it be a guest room, canned food, clothes, phone chargers, etc.
If you would like to help out please consider donating what you can to the Thomas Fire and Flood Fund, The Humane Society, Direct Relief, or GoFundMe under the name “Feed the Firemen of Montecito.” Links can be found at the bottom of this article.
How to Support Or Donate to Affected Communities
Thomas Fire and Flood Fund
805-965-8591 Santa Barbara
The Santa Barbara Humane Society
805-964-4777 Santa Barbara
American Red Cross of the Pacific Coast
Direct Relief - A Santa Barbara Based Profit
“Feed the Firemen of Montecito”
Media & Photos
Photos from the Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara
Video - By Guardian News