Inside the Emergency: The Thomas Fire Response
Source: Santa Barbara County
Imagine you receive notification that you are living in an area subject to mandatory fire evacuation, and you are directed to leave your home immediately. But you can't just grab your pets and a few valuables and run to your car to drive off because you have physical limitations that prevent you from doing so.
That’s what happened to Jacob (not his real name) on Saturday, December 16 when the Thomas Fire raged closer to the city of Santa Barbara and threatened his neighborhood.
Because his caregiver was not able to reach Jacob, he called 211, a comprehensive information and referral system connecting people to health and human services, disaster relief, and public information. He was told that Easy Lift Transportation, which would normally respond, was already overwhelmed with requests for transport and could not help him.
A short time later, a County Disaster Service worker knocked on his door and helped him evacuate. What happened during the interval is just one example of the many ways people in our community have come together to help each other during the Thomas Fire.
The 211 operator called the Thomas Fire Information Help Line, and as the request came in, staff understood that Jacob needed immediate assistance, but also realized there would be others in similar circumstances.
Within minutes, the Emergency Operations team was able to direct several AMR ambulances, Easy Lift vans, along with some vans and a bus from the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office to the Santa Barbara County Bowl. These vehicles were staged for deployment to respond to requests to evacuate non-ambulatory residents in need of assistance for the rest of the Thomas Fire.
Jacob was the first of dozens of individuals with physical limitations who were evacuated with assistance, dispatched from the County Bowl thus far during the Thomas Fire. The system established to help him is currently still in place. Jacob was safely taken to the evacuation center, where he received care and support from the many volunteers at the shelter. Residents can get evacuation assistance by calling the Thomas Fire Information Help Line at 805-681-5542 or by texting 805-729-6538 to request transportation assistance.