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Cave Fire evacuees near Santa Barbara hope to return home for Thanksgiving

Posted at 5:38 PM, Nov 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-26 21:56:39-05

Hundreds of people remained displaced Tuesday after they were evacuated Monday night as the Cave Fire erupted in the Los Padres National Forest along Highway 154.

"We could see it happening and I said, 'OK, it's time to get ready to go,' because I don't wait," Maggie Keenan, who was evacuated, said.

From the window of her home in the Rancho Santa Barbara neighborhood, Keenan and her husband, Rog, could see the red flicker of flames in the distance.

The fire would burn through over 4,000 acres by Tuesday afternoon and threaten some 2,400 structures, prompting thousands of residents to evacuate.

This round of evacuations was not the first time the Keenan family was forced to flee their home.

"The worst one was the paint fire," Keenan said. "That was scary."

The historic Paint Fire burned over 5,000 acres in 1990. That's the same decade flames last chewed threw the hillside above Highway 154 at Painted Cave Road.

That fire destroyed over 400 structures and claimed a life. Rosanne Giambo remembers being evacuated during the deadly paint fire, but said Tuesday that she and her husband didn't immediately evacuate Monday night.

"Everybody always goes but we've been through it so many times, we said we're gonna stay, we're not gonna go," Giambo said.

But then, a knock on the door from police got the Giambos to evacuate.

They stayed at a friend's home, while the Keenans took refuge in their RV.

"We had thought about selling it and thank god we didn't," Keenan said.

Ultimately, both the Keenan and Giambo families found themselves at the Red Cross Shelter Tuesday morning, located at the Goleta Community Center.

At a time when many people are prepping Thanksgiving dinner, many families simply prepare to return home.

"We have to do everything at the last minute but still we will," Giambo said. "And having everyone over -- it makes you appreciate your dinner even more."

The evacuees feel a special kind of "thanks" for the work of fire crews and life, itself.

"Gratitude that no matter what happens to our home, as long as we're alive - that's the most important part," Keenan said.