THE PAINTED CAVE FIRE
The day Santa Barbara Burned To The Ground
On June 27, 1990 at 6:02 pm a fire started up in the mountains near a place
called Painted Cave. A long drought had made the brush very dry, and a
several day heat wave was further drying up the area. Just as the sun was
setting, strong winds began blowing the fire down the mountain towards town.
Two hours later the fire had done the impossible. It had traveled 5 miles
downhill cutting a swath between Goleta and Santa Barbara setting afire
entire neighborhoods in it's path. The fire jumped the combination of our
6 lane freeway and the two side roads, Calle Real and Hollister and continued
burning down stores, restaurants, businesses, apartment buildings, and more
houses on the other side. All roads between Santa Barbara and Goleta were
blocked by the fire, it was impossible to get from one side to the other.
Entire neighborhoods were burning to the ground, hundreds of houses were
already lost, residents evacuated with little or no time to save any precious
belongings. It appeared nothing but the Pacific Ocean itself was going to
stop this fire.
Finally, later that night, the winds died down and the fire was
brought to a halt at the edge of Hope Ranch, about 2 miles from the
ocean. Dawn broke the next morning on a very eerie sight. There was
nothing but ashes where entire neighborhoods had stood the day before.
5000 acres, 440 houses, 28 apartment complexes, and 30 other structures
were lost. There were still visible flames on the
black burnt mountain range. The fire continued to burn in the mountains
for several days before finally being extinguished. Authorities say an
incendiary device was found where the fire started -- it was arson, and
the arsonist has never been found. This continues to be one of the worst
disasters ever in the history of Santa Barbara.