The Thomas Fire and Montecito mudslides affected much of southern Santa Barbara County, taking lives, causing injuries, destroying homes and businesses, and shutting down Highway 101 for two weeks as crews worked tirelessly to clean up the mud.
The disasters have also brought out the good in the community, however, with groups including the Santa Ynez High School girls basketball team coming forward to help their neighbors.
“I live in Santa Barbra and so the fire directly affected me, and it affected a lot of friends of mine,” said Coach Ashley Coelho.
The Thomas Fire broke out on the evening of Dec. 4 and charred 281,893 acres, destroying 1,063 structures, damaging 280 others and leaving the landscape open for mudslides and debris flows.
The disastrous rain storm on Jan. 9 dumped half an inch of rain in less than five minutes in the mountains above Montecito, which was the catalyst for the mudslide and debris flows that killed 21 people, with two children still listed as missing.
Coelho had been overhearing parents talk about the tragedies and the kids in the bus talk about it and thought they should help the community. The team immediately set to action and was excited to host a donation drive.
The team along with Coelho and assistant coach Jani Lindberg donated two school vans full of clothes, toys and canned food, which they recently delivered to Goodwill in Santa Barbara.
“We are all very proud of our varsity and JV teams for representing our girls basketball program and SYHS. In addition to donating to those in need, our drive brought awareness and compassion to our campus,” Lindberg said.
“It’s important to give back to the community and teach the younger generation about supporting it,” added team captain Lita Wrigh