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Residents return home as evacuation orders are lifted in southern Santa Barbara County

Posted at 10:40 PM, Jan 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-16 01:49:39-05

Evacuation orders for the burn scar areas of the Thomas, Whittier, and Sherpa fires were lifted Tuesday night, which means people can sleep in their homes.

People slowly made their way back to their houses Tuesday evening, happy to come home to unscathed, undamaged houses.

“We evacuate for a reason, but we hope for it to be no reason,” said Sean Bolis, an evacuee who returned home.

KSBY spoke with Bolis Monday night as he was filling sandbags to put around his home.

Less than 24 hours after he was told to leave, he returned to a home untouched by mud.

“I didn’t want to come home to mud again, I wanted to come home to exactly this and have some piece of mind,” said Bolis.

Bolis says since last year’s mudslide, he takes evacuation orders like this seriously.

“Mud was everywhere, going down the side. I saw mud directly in there,” said Bolis.

Deputies went door-to-door Tuesday, while the evacuation order was still in effect.

However, the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services lifted the orders around 6 p.m.

Sheriff Bill Brown says Tuesday’s storm didn’t bring enough rain to cause significant issues.

“The forecast is that the rainfalls during the peak periods of the coming storm will only be around the half-inch level, which is well below what our threshold amounts are,” said Sheriff Brown.

Montecito firefighters were prepared for the worst but didn’t see too much activity.

“Not a lot of reports of any kind of debris flow. The only real reports I have heard of are a couple of fallen rocks on the 154,” said Alex Broumand, Montecito Assistant Fire Marshall.

Emergency service crews say they appreciate the cooperation of those who had to evacuate, even though it might be tough.

“It’s an inconvenience, yes, but life is too short to be cut short,” said Bolis.

Despite the evacuation orders being lifted, emergency crews still advise people to track the weather conditions for Wednesday’s storm.

People are also asked to sign up for Aware & Prepare alerts. For more information, click here.