Legal Advice For The Victims Of The Thomas Fire and Montecito Mudslides Standing up for Victim’s Rights

The Thomas Fire is the largest fire in California history destroying hundreds of homes in Ventura and Santa Barbara County and destroying over 273,000 acres. The Thomas fire started near the Thomas Aquinas College, which is how the fire got its name destroying landscape and homes in its path from Santa Paula to Santa Barbara and beyond. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

A scorched landscape is an opportunity for catastrophic mudslides and flooding in the face of heavy rains. Intense heat and gasses from fire form a waxy surface causing the soil repel water, a condition called hydrophobicity. The slick hydrophobic layer can remain in place for up to five years after a fire. After the Thomas Fire, because of this slick waxy layer, mud and debris flowed freely with increasing momentum as it cascaded down the mountains and into the city of Montecito, California. The result is the complete decimation of over 100 homes a death toll of more than 19 people and still rising.

Anticipating landslides and floods, Santa Barbara County officials issued a Mandatory evacuation order to more than 7,000 residents. They even went door to door informing residents but many refused to leave their homes. However, many of those who perished in the mudslide were in “Voluntary Evacuation Zones”. Evacuation weary from the Thomas Fire and unaware of the magnitude of the ensuing danger, they did not evacuate, nor were they asked to.

The first emergency warning was issued by “Santa Barbara County Aware and Preparedness” Tuesday January 9, at 2:49 am. This warning came via email and text messages on phones and computers for those who had opted for the service. It warned residents of a Flash Flood in the Whittier and Thomas Fire Burn areas. Flooding and debris were imminent. The warning urged residents in evacuation areas to go to “high ground”. Unfortunately, this warning came too late. The mudslide had already begun rushing down the mountains into the city. The following emergency warnings on January 9, 2018 told the tale of the catastrophic destruction of Montecito, California from gas leaks, to power outages to bad drinking water to seclusion zones and more mandatory evacuation orders.

If you or a loved one suffered injury or death in the Montecito Mudslide of January 9, 2018 and want to talk to an attorney about potential recovery of damages, please contact our offices at 805-962-4944 for information about victims’ rights. My family and I have also been affected by the Thomas Fire and Montecito Mudslides. We evacuated our home on December 8, 2017 and have not been able to return.

Our thoughts and prayers and much love go out to all of those affected by this tragedy.

Steven and Kathleen Andrade and our two dogs Marla and Baron.

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