Local News

May 5, 2010 11:32 PM by Ariel Wesler

Jesusita Fire cleanup continues a year later

The Jesusita Fire first lit up the hills above Santa Barbara one year ago today. That fire scorched nearly 8800 acres and destroyed 80 homes. It took crews about two weeks to put it out. New construction is popping up in the neighborhood, but there is still a lot of cleanup ahead for homeowners.

Like the remains of ancient ruins, they sit atop Santa Barbara hillsides as powerful reminders of the destruction that took place here just one year ago.

Construction crews have been working on this home for the last two months. Santa Barbara County has issued 13 building permits for new construction and another 18 for repair work.

"We're totally rebuilding it on the existing foundation. it's one of the first permits on Tunnel Road," said Vince Muracchioli, a builder.

A road that saw 19 homes burned to the ground. . .more than any other neighborhood. Elsewhere, stairs still lead to nowhere and piles of rubble lie untouched.

Of the 80 homes destroyed by this fire, 12 of them were here along Palomino Road.

Not far way, it's been a year of cleanup for many residents like Burt Francis.

"We actually dug out the last pieces of cleanup done this last week," Francis said.

His home was spared, but his garden destroyed.

"We all just have to be aware that fires happen in here and to make sure we've got vegetation cleared out and that we've got defensible areas. . .the thing we were really worried about was the winter storms and the runoff from the hills around here," Francis said.

With thousands of acres scorched, residents say they aren't as concerned about the upcoming fire season, but they're ready.

Yeah, more aware, that's for sure," Francis said.

Some homeowners are still negotiating with insurance companies a year later and with the current economy, others are trying decide whether they can even afford to rebuild.

Investigators say the fire was started by power equipment used to clear out brush and vegetation. The total cost of the fire was around $17 million dollars.

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