Home / World News / Crews saved hundreds of homes in epic battle against wind and fireplace. But two families returned to rubble

Crews saved hundreds of homes in epic battle against wind and fireplace. But two families returned to rubble

Every morning and every night during her family vacation in snowy Colorado, Sonia Behrman pulled up the live security footage of her Montecito home.

Sometimes she’d see a handful of firefighters, with hoses, moving about. Other times, a firetruck parked in the driveway. In every stream for seven days, her home was still standing.

But on Saturday morning, the feed on her cellphone screen cut out.

Either their internet went out, her husband said, or their house burned down.

The Behrmans learned Sunday morning that it was the latter. That despite a heroic battle by firefighters that left more than a thousand homes unscathed by the relentless Thomas fire, their large hillside residence was reduced to charred walls and piles of rubble.

“My whole inside just went numb,” Behrman, 39, said of receiving a text from her stepson, who saw their home on the news. “My sister had to sit me on the couch. I felt like I was going to faint.”

Despite her family’s heartbreak, the destruction in Montecito over the weekend was relatively light, a testament to days of preparation by firefighters bracing for powerful winds that sent the blaze raging through the hills of the picturesque coastal town. Just two homes were destroyed, and seven others damaged.

“It could have been a lot worse,” said Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni. “We could have easily lost firefighters or had more homes destroyed. It was a great effort by firefighters.”

Winds persisted Sunday morning, with gusts topping 70 mph in mountain areas in the fire zone and 50 mph on the Ventura County coast. But they calmed as the day wore on, allowing fire crews to mop up hot spots and remove dry vegetation by the homes they’d saved in Montecito.

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