This holiday season has been one of chaos, disaster and tragedy. It began with the Thomas Fire, which started on Dec. 4, 2017 and burned over 280,000 acres of land (making it the largest recorded wild fire in California history) from Santa Paula to Santa Barbara. It was fully contained, more than a month later, as of Jan. 12. Then came the subsequent mudslide on Jan. 9, which destroyed or damaged over 100 Montecito homes and took the lives of 21 people with two people still missing as of Jan. 23. These natural disasters have given us an any- thing-but-gentle reminder to hang on to what and whom we have, and to remember how lucky we are to be together in this catastrophic time.

It is impossible to put into words how thankful we are for the men and women who fought the awful re and who searched for and rescued so many during the Montecito mudslides. But let us try.

To the firefighters who fought the Thomas Fire:

Thank you for running towards the flames, so that everyone else could run away.Thank you for staying awake, so that the rest of us have beds to sleep in.Thank you, especially, to those of you who risked your lives, so that we can have ours.

And thank you to Cory Iverson, the re ghter hailing from San Diego County who passed as a result of thermal injuries and smoke inhalation. Iverson is survived by his two-year-old daughter and pregnant wife.

Over 4,400 of you came together from all over the Western United States to save and protect our community. Against the overpowering Santa Ana winds, in the bone-dry air, through the drought-driven fuel, over steep, jagged terrain, you have worked nonstop to ensure that our belongings, our pets, our families and our properties are protected.

Thank you to each and every one of you for everything you have done for our lives, families and property during these recent disasters. Your sacrifices are what have kept us safe and together. Thank you.

To the first responders in the Montecito Mudslide:

Tuesday’s rain led to consequences thousands of times larger than anyone imagined. The 101 freeway remained closed for 13 days. And still the first responders worked continuously and tirelessly to search through the rubble left in the wake of the Montecito mudslide. On Jan. 21, the 101 opened.There are still two people missing, and the greater part of Montecito remains closed as of Jan. 23.

Thank you to the first responders for doing the job that the rest of us are nowhere near strong enough or brave enough to do. Thank you for cleaning up the debris. Thank you for wading through waist deep mud in search of our loved ones. Thank you for your strength in the wake of this awful disaster. Thank you for everything.

To say the least, the past month and a half has been disastrous. So thank you to the firefighters and first responders who have been working endlessly to protect our families and our communities.


The Fourth Estate Staff