Montecito evacuees celebrate special tradition after returning h - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Montecito evacuees celebrate special tradition after returning home

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(KSBY Photo) (KSBY Photo)

The Montecito community celebrated a special tradition on Christmas Eve despite being recently evacuated from the Thomas Fire.

They came together to honor a long-standing tradition, and they didn't let any ol' fire get in the way of their joyous Christmas spirits. 

A community reuniting with warm hugs and friendly faces after weeks of devastation gathered around a very special tree. 

"We thought that it wouldn't get decorated," said Dana Newquist, Montecito resident. "However, here we are." 

"This will bring a little feeling of spirit back because everyone needs that right now," said Trisha Davis, Montecito resident. "We are so lucky and so thankful. The fire department is usually here helping but they need a little rest. So we are the elves today."

It's not just any tree, but a long-standing tradition for a very special person in the Montecito community. 

"Every year its decorated, this has been going on for 55 years," Newquist told KSBY News. "We had scheduled to decorate the tree with the Montecito Union School and Cold Springs School on the 14th, but we all know what happened."

The tradition first began in the 1960s as a surprise Christmas tree for the community, one decorated in the middle of the night.

But in 2011, the man behind the ornaments had passed away. 

"Don Hathaway died in September of 2011 and he was a Battalion Chief up at the Montecito Fire District," Newquist said.

Now a new memorial tree stands tall, decorated each December and this year was no exception, as fire evacuees came together again.

"We're just blessed and lucky to have what we have," Davis said.

Although the residents were able to pause in remembrance for a few moments, they encourage the public to shop local this holiday because businesses in Montecito were closed for more than two weeks during the Thomas Fire. ?

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