Montecito Fire ~ Prayer Request!

Update: November 17th! Sounds like classes will resume at Westmont College Monday December 1st…

Update on Tea Fire as of 10:30 Nov. 16th!

By and large, last night was quiet and today, the fourth day of the Tea Fire, should see further recovery efforts by firefighters. So far, 1,940 acres have burned and 210 homes have been lost — 130 in the City of Santa Barbara and 80 in the County of Santa Barbara. Damage assessment is continuing

Looks like my nephew Caleb’s room was spared fire damage. Still need to assess the smoke damage.

Here’s a link to photos from Westmont from the fire. Just click here.

Update: Saturday 9/15 ~  I just received this email from my SIL whose 2 sons attend Westmont. They are preparing for taking in some of the students displaced because of the fires at Westmont. I’m sure there are more people who live in the Southern California area that will have extra students staying at their homes this weekend.


Everyone is fine, or as fine as can be.  I’m expecting several carloads of kids to start arriving shortly.  Everyone has been moved off campus until next Wednesday as  they assess damages and decide where to move people around.  There have been broken gas lines etc. so there is no way to keep kids there and to feed them.  Caleb wanted to stay closer to campus yesterday in case he could get up to his dorm.  His section is one of the ones that burned, but he’s on the bottom floor and there is a chance some of his stuff survived.  We’ll see.  They hope to resume classes late next week, some of that will depend on facuilty…since so many lost homes.  The President is making an announcement Monday night…I guess then we will learn how long we will have houseguests for:)

We are praising God that no one was hurt.  With the speed it whipped through those neighborhoods it’s amazing everyone got to safety.  Caleb said they were expecting an earthquake drill that day so people didn’t automatically respond to the fire alarms.  He heard people calling that it was a fire, so he walked out of his room…saw the flames on the hill…went in his room to get his laptop…and by the time he got out there were already flames at the edge of campus.  He’s at the farthest end from the gym and said people were hurrying by then and when they got to the gym they already had embers landing on them and the trees around them.  Once everyone was accounted for they sealed up the gym and let the fire run through…they could watch it through the glass doors at the front of the gym.  After about 5 hours or so, the worst had passed and they let people out to get provisions from the DC of water and muffins etc.  By about 1:00 they started letting people with cars at the gym leave campus so Levi left with his girlfriend who had been there for a PE class, but Caleb opted to stay with his suitemates.  Yesterday they were figuring out who was from out of state and didn’t have anywhere to go and were dividing them up…

It was also College Preview Days, so there were extra high school students on campus…I’m sure that was pretty scary for them.  Luckily many of the homes that burned are second homes and people weren’t there.  There just aren’t very many roads out of the mountain so it’s hard to move quickly…that’s why Westmont built the firesafe gym, without a fair amount of lead time they would never have gotten all the cars off the mountain.  The worst losses were the faculty homes, some of them friends of ours.  So sad.  Several of the other buildings that burned were slated for demolition anyway, as the school is int he midst of a building program.  Caleb said most of the trees and gardens survived, and it didn’t look as bad as the news made it sound.  (Isn’t that always the way)

Thanks for all of your prayers.

Scroll down for updates…


Breaking News Update -TEA FIRE


Above Hwy 192 (East Valley Rd/Sycamore Cyn Rd.) between Cold Springs Rd and Hot Springs Rd.
Evacuation Center will be located at San Marcus High School
Tune to AM1680 and your local cable news for more information


I have 2 nephews that are students at Westmont College. They and all the students have been evacuated to the Gym which they say is fireproof. Please pray that all the students will be safe and that Westmont College is spared any further damage and that the resident halls do not burn. Please pray for all the residents of Montecito!!
Here’s an update from my SIL whose 2 sons are on campus.
Roy sent me an email…he’s on the board of directors so has been kept updated.  Evidently the gym was built as a ‘safe’ building evacuation area for this sort of thing because it is so hard to get that many people out of that area.

Here is what Roy said…

The latest I’ve heard is the following….

Students, staff and faculty who were on campus will evacuate “onsite” in the gym.  This is a safe building approved by experts and will not burn. reports that two cars in the Page parking lot burned, and that trees by the baseball field are ablaze.  But the latest is that there is no structural damage to the campus.  Firefighters are on campus.

Keep praying!

Also you can watch live coverage at this website.


At 9 p.m., an update was given to everyone sheltered in place in the gymnasium. There is no threat to the gym and air quality is improving there. Those sheltered in place seem to be doing well under the circumstances, and are now watching a movie. To our knowledge, no one has been injured on campus.

The fire has damaged several minor buildings.

Photos from Westmont College

If you have students at Westmont be encouraged that there are fire fighters on campus and that not only have they evacuated students to the gymnasium but local residents have been evacuated to the gymnasium because of it’s fire safety!!  They are in the safest building in Montecito right now…


A residence hall and several classrooms were destroyed at Westmont College, a private Christian university, and about 800 students were evacuated to the school’s fireproof gymnasium, where they were out of harm’s way.

I will confirm with my brother and SIL but it sounds like Clark hall has fire damage. That is probably the residence hall being referred to above…

Late night update

November 14th, 2008


Students who are on campus who wish to leave and have means to do so are allowed off-campus. Those leaving campus will not be allowed to return for at least 24 hours.

All faculty and staff who are currently off campus should not come to the campus unless specifically requested to do so by their supervisor.

There have been more than a dozen houses at Las Barrancas (faculty housing) destroyed in addition to the structures already mentioned.

Those wishing to extend temporary housing to those displaced by the fire should send their name, phone contact information, e-mail address, house address, and the number of individuals they can accommodate to:


November 13th, 2008

Update: 11:44 . A natural gas line has broken, forcing the fire department to shut off natural gas to the college. This has brought down our generators. We have between 1/2 hour and 4 hours of UPS left, so may not be able to post further updates through the web site.

Update: 11:36 p.m.
After consulting the Fire Department and the Red Cross, the decision has been made to continue sheltering in place at the gymnasium tonight.

The Red cross is brining 60 cots and 200 blankets to the gym.

Additional cots and blankets on campus are being brought to the gym.

There will be no classes on Friday.


previous messages…

Conditions on campus improved to the point where staff were able to get food from the Dining Commons and bring it to the gym, where the community is sheltered in place.

Conditions in the area may make it possible now to leave the campus for a Red Cross shelter, but that option is still being explored.
Firefighters are currently attempting to put out several fires at Clark Hall. Structures lost to or significantly damaged by fire include the Physics Building, the ‘old Math” building, Bauder Hall and the Quonset Huts.

Again, we are grateful that no one has been hurt on campus, and everyone is safely in the gymnasium and in good spirits.

Thank you for your prayers.
The emergency hotline number at 1-888-565-7911 has current information..

My nephew Caleb’s dorm sounds like it’s the dorm that has been damaged by the fire. From the photos we’ve seen looks like his room is a goner…

Here’s the latest update from the Westmont College Site:

8:00 a.m.
There are no active fires on campus, no injuries, and everyone is safe.
7:21 a.m.
All students and employees are fine. We are assessing damage this morning. Updates will be posted shortly.

Wesmont has 326 students remaining in the Gym; those students with transportation have been released from campus because it is safe for them to travel on area roads.

Westmont has lost eight structures, four buildings in Clark halls (F,G,M,S), the physics building, the old math building and the two quonset huts. The later three structures were scheduled for demolition soon.

Fourteen faculty homes in Las Barrancas have burned; there is damage to trees, and wooded areas on campus, but much of the formal gardens remains intact.
Fires out. Assessing damage.

No fires remain active on or in the campus area.

About Ellen am a wife, mother, baba (grandmother) and a loyal friend. Jesus is my King and my hope is in my future with Him.

53 thoughts on “Montecito Fire ~ Prayer Request!

  1. OH NO! I’ll be praying! The Prof just told me that the Santa Anas have started up again. Here in the Beach Cities there is no wind right now. I’ll check for updates!

  2. Lot’s of family in the area. Parents, Brother, Nephew. All 3 houses are under evacuation order. Our prayers are with everyone in the area.

  3. My mother and sister and animals live down the street. I haven’t heard from them and I can’t reach them. We kid around that she has the worst house in the best neighborhood because it’s a little tiny house, not your typical Montecito home. She’s an artist and has sold her work for over 20 years at the S.B. beach show. Please join me in prayer that they are safe and that her livelihood is safe too. It’s all she has.

    Thank you!!!


  4. Thank you for this post. My daughter just called me crying from Bible Study. We have quite a few kids that attend Westmont from our church. The parents of those kids called the church asking the group to pray and are very distraught. We are getting the word out and the prayer chain going.
    V. Fresno

  5. It can be so scary to play the waiting game to see if family and friends are okay. The best place for information on the fire that I can find is They have maps, a Twitter feed, mainstream media, blogs and a bunch of other information.

    God bless!

  6. I’ll definitely be praying! I have a friend who lives in the Santa Barbara area who just let me know about this too – she has an aunt and a couple of close friends whose houses are in danger right now. Keep us updated!

  7. praying son graduated from westmont a year ago and lives what looks to be 5 blocks from the evacuation line (he lives on voluntario street..a couple blocks behind trader joes).

    we were in the poway firestorms a year ago.

  8. Please keep praying! I attended Westmont last year and some of my friends are in the gym. One of them said Van Kampen Hall was on fire and parts of Clark and Armington also. The gym is fireproof though and is isolated from the fires on campus.

  9. I am praying for all involved.

    I have been in a state of shock after hearing of this fire just after 7 tonight. My best friend may have lost his home. Many friends (or their parents) have been evacuated.

    My former neighbor (we moved from SB) and very good friend of the family is a professor at Westmont, my brother in law worked there for a time and I’ve visited the campus many, many times. One of the most beautiful campuses anywhere.

    Again, I join many people tonight in prayer.

  10. just heard from my son and he was packing out to go to a friend’s house neaer SBCC…………..his house is 2 blocks from mandatory evac…his housemate.landlord is staying.

    we got the reverse 911 call a year ago at 4 am…power was out..very scarey….were out all week and did not know if the house was spared for several days. i stayed out a week due to the smoke damage….

  11. I’m a student of Westmont College and as soon as I heard we were being evacuated to the gym I got out of there. I was a bit freaked out so I may have overreacted…

    But I can’t understand why they aren’t getting the rest of the students out of the gym. I’ve been watching the news and there are definitely several buildings on fire on the campus, as well as houses and trees surrounding the campus. I know the Math and Physics buildings were both affected (I’m not sure how much). They aren’t even allowing people to go up La Paz road to Westmont. Why would they let the students stay there?

    Goodness, I’m mostly just nervous and praying for my friends. We’ve done fire drills before of course. I’m just worried.

  12. Students here at Biola are praying for Westmont and the residents in Montecito.

    If we can do ANYTHING from where we are besides prayer, do not hesitate to ask. I know myself and many other athletes and students will be more than willing to help.

  13. “Anyone know if homes on San Leandro Ln are safe?”

    San Leandro Ln is not affected. Here’s a link to the map. You can see Westmont in the top, left corner, it’s a little under 2 miles. May not seem like much but the fire seems to be moving in the other direction.

  14. Dear Haley & students

    We are praying for you in San Diego. The most frightening thing about fast moving fires is not knowing the latest news. Communication is usually scarce making it easy to reach inaccurate conclusions.

    Have faith and confidence in your firefighting heros and emergency workers like those who saved thousands of lives and our family’s neighborhood in San Diego after our evacuation last year.

    Your fellow students and nearby residents are the absolute highest of priorities for the firefighters in your county and I’m certain that the majority of their resources have been devoted to their safety. Every hour that passes means even more resources and air coverage from the State are arriving to help.

    Our thoughts and prayers from your sister City.

  15. My daughter attends Westmont. She was on State Street with friends around 6 PM when the fire broke out and they could not go back to the campus. She is with friends over at UCSB. Her roommate was in the gym but was allowed to leave an hour ago with another friend and they got down to State Street. They are now over at UCSB. All students at Westmont are fine as far as we know. But all are extremely sad and devastated over the destruction of places on campus and the Montecito area they love so much and call “home”.

    The sweet little prayer chapel has burned. Clark has burned. No other dorms were on fire as far as they could tell. Math and Physics building burned. We heard possibly an Art building…? Some faculty housing was burned.

    Keep lifting the prayers. The school has been outstanding sending updates. However, I think their power may be out right now.

    Everyone will need masks and need to stay indoors after all of this so I don’t know how that’s going to work. We nearly lost our home last year in the October fires in Trabuco Canyon/Foothill Ranch and had to seal our doors and windows and live indoors for two weeks afterwards.

    It is a terrible thing to see a roaring fire coming towards you. The pictures on tv around 9:30 looked like a lake of fire.

    Pray for the kids and faculty. The stress will set in later on and they will need a lot of TLC.

    In about an hour or so coverage will begin on KCAL and CBS2 news. What a terrible sight it will be when daylight breaks.

  16. I am praying too! For me, who has never lived in an area like Southern California or witnessed anything like those fires (except on TV), it is frightening to imagine. Its got to be even more frightening for those living it. I pray for all involved to be aware of God’s presence with them.

  17. Having lived through THREE fires this summer/fall (Indians, Basin, and Chalk), and my brother losing his house in Ramona last year, my heart and prayers go out to all residents of Montecito.

    Be safe, everyone!

  18. Ellen, Oh my goodness, talk about fire close to home. Home is where your famliy is. . .
    I’m praying for all of the students and faculty and certainly for your loved ones.. .

  19. I’ll be praying for their safety. Why is it called a Tea Fire?

    Melissa, They are calling it the Tea Fire because it started at the Tea Gardens above Montecito. Westomont students call the Tea Garden “The Arches”…

  20. Pingback: Praying for the Montecito Fire! « Above the Clouds

  21. My niece graduated from Westmont and two of the professors are good friends of the family. Our prayers are with you K&K, and all the other faculty and students. This is one of the most beautiful college sites. Our prayers also go out to all those in the community, whose homes have been destroyed or are still in danger.

  22. Wow, Ellen. Praying for the safety of everyone there. Lord, keep them in the palm of your hand. May the fires be directed away from buildings and people and may they be out quickly. Please keep us updated Ellen!

  23. I seem to come to your site first for an update. Please keep us informed.

    I would ask that you specifically also remember those that have respiratory problems in your prayers. As an asthmatic, I can’t even be near anyone even smoking a cigarette without having an attack, so I can’t even imagine how those there are fairing.

    My daughter is now home going to Fresno State but has friends there. She can’t watch or talk about the fires. She gets panic attacks over it.

    Our hearts are heavy. Our eyes are mascara smeared. Our bodies are exhausted from all night watching. But I have confidence in our Lord who hears our cries.

    Thank you Lord, for protecting those things that are most important to us all, human lives. Your Children.

  24. With regards to prayer. Do you really think it helps the situation? Or, do you all do it because it makes you feel better. Here’s my take on prayer. It doesn’t matter. Why?

    We as christians believe “God’s will be done” right? I mean it’s in the Lord’s Prayer… So….. If God’s will is going to be done, then God’s will is going to be done…regardless…right? Or, do you think prayer shows God how much you care about others so he might spare them? No, he’s omnipotent, he already knows how much you care, no need to tell him…

    I’m sorry, I’m jaded about prayer…I believe in God n all…but my dad had a stroke at 65….no less than 1000 people in our church were praying for him…the pastor visited him several times in the hospital and nursing home…and in the end, God’s will was done, he died…

    So, I no longer pray. God knows what’s on my mind I assume and he’s going to do what he’s going to do….nothing I say or request is going to change that….

    Sorry gang, that’s just my take on this…

    I do hope these kids are spared…

  25. Inappropriateone: Prayer isn’t for begging God to never bring harm to those we love. We pray to give us the strength to get through the times when these things do happen…and they will happen. You are mad at what happened to your dad, etc. But at the end, you said you hoped the kids are spared. Seems you still have some semblance of hope left. You aren’t as jaded as you think…

  26. Inappropriateone: Maybe your prayers were answered. Loved ones and friends were able to see your dad before he passed away and say good-bye. My dad died of a massive heart attack, he was dead in a second, we never got to say good-bye or tell him how much we love him. 1000 people praying for your dad, wow, that is amazing that so many cared. That is a lot of Love.

    I know the pain you feel, I cry everyday for my dad. I believe God protected the kids last night. And I pray to Him with heartfelt thanks.

  27. My computer locked up today and it wouldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even turn it off, unplugging didn’t help either. I had to rely on TV for scetchy updates.

    So now that it is working I see I could have had much better updates on your site Ellen.

    Did you know Jeaneen lived in Clark her second year at Westmont?

    Accessing the Westmont web site with the after the fire photos was pretty telling of the danger that could have come to the students. So sad about the faculty housing loss.


  29. Instead of praying, how about donating to the fire service or doing something useful to help out! Your personal god is most likely not there. Do something to ACTUALLY HELP!

  30. Westmont is my alma mater, and I have been praying throughout the day. Thanks for the additional information and the link for updates. (And guess this helps me decide where my Christmas giving will be headed.) May God grant safety to all the students and no additional damage to the school. But I also pray that Westmont students and faculty will be able to minister to people who have lost their homes — that many will get to hear a message of hope because of the hardship.

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