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Thomas Fire evacuees return home after nearly two weeks away - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Thomas Fire evacuees return home after nearly two weeks away

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Thomas Fire evacuations were lifted Thursday for Santa Barbara County residents, making the streets of Santa Barbara more congested than they've been the last two-and-a-half weeks.

Instead of neighborhoods being predominantly filled with fire trucks and personnel, families are back in their homes.

Maria Acosta lives in the hills of Santa Barbara. For the last ten days, she and her family have called a hotel in Goleta home.

"We read the news about the evacuation being lifted and we were just extremely happy. That was just a really sweet moment," Acosta said.

Her son, Tiago Eckstein, is equally excited.

"We were jumping up and down," Eckstein said. "We were just really excited to go home."

Other neighbors were busy cleaning up ash that landed outside and made its way indoors.

Ken Miner, who has lived in his phone near Highway 192 since the 1970s, says he's been through four wildfires, including the Sycamore Fire in the late 1970s that destroyed his home.

"When we hear sirens, it's always a concern to us, but you learn to live with it and go on," Miner said.

In some ways, he was prepared for the Thomas Fire.

"It was a little easier to walk away from stuff, look at it and say, 'Does it really mean anything? No, let's take this stuff,'" Miner said.

While he was in neighboring Goleta while he was evacuated, Saturday's strong winds made it seem more likely he could lose his home.

"Then the Saturday, when everything blew apart, it became a serious thing for us because it was burning in the hills right behind us," Miner said. 

Looking back to a week ago when the hills were glowing from flames, this weekend Christmas lights on houses are expected to take that place.

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