Survivors Featured in Montecito Debris Flow Documentary
By Melinda Burns
One year ago today, 23 people died when an early morning deluge on the heels of the Thomas Fire pounded the charred slopes above Montecito, launching an ocean of mud and boulders into the sleeping community below.
A new 22-minute documentary, released by TV Santa Barbara on the first anniversary of the disaster, features four survivors on Montecito and San Ysidro creeks, where the catastrophic debris flow was most destructive. In order of appearance, they are Mark Karpeles, Lalo Barajas, Marco Farrell and Curtis Skene.
The documentary includes dramatic photos and video of the immediate aftermath of the flow by Mike Eliason of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Capt. Drue Holthe of the Montecito Fire Protection District and other local photographers. In all, 470 structures in Montecito were damaged or destroyed last Jan. 9. The documentary highlights newspaper headlines from the Santa Barbara Historical Museum archives, showing how debris flows and debris-laden floods have wreaked havoc in some of the same neighborhoods during the past 100 years.
The documentary was produced and directed by Melinda Burns, a Santa Barbara journalist, and Hap Freund, a former executive director of TVSB. The station supplied videographers and editors.
“We thought it was important to expand the historical record of this tragedy through video, drawing on the vivid accounts of survivors,” Burns said. “Their stories take on special urgency as the community girds for the extreme weather events that are sure to come again.”
Starting today, TVSB will air the video on the Newsmakers with Jerry Roberts program. Newsmakers is available online at https://www.newsmakerswithjr.com and on youtube at www.youtube.com/newsmakerswithjr
Melinda Burns is a freelance journalist based in Santa Barbara