Beginning on the evening of November 13, 2008, Santa Barbara County sustained damage to or destruction of approximately 218 homes. The actual number of homes is unknown as there were several secondary structures on properties that were not on the tax rolls.
The American Red Cross and several other VOAD member organizations responded to the citizens of Santa Barbara to aid in their recovery from this event.
In the first 90 days following the Tea Fire, approximately 130 hours per week were spent by Red Cross staff and volunteers on assisting clients who had lost their homes or who had been displaced as a result of the disaster.
One staff member spent over 20 hours a week just assisting the clients with their FEMA applications.
In mid-February 2009, volunteer and staff time decreased to about 100 hours per week.
The assistance needed by the clients included emotional health support, retrieval of lost official documents, house hunting, insurance issues, storage of saved and retrieved items, and many other details that must be tended to when one loses their home.
A Tea Fire fund was established through the cooperative efforts of United Way of Santa Barbara County, The Santa Barbara Foundation, and Santa Barbara Bank and Trust. Funds were disbursed to clients after Red Cross caseworkers verified information and assisted the clients in determining what their most essential needs were to effectively recover from their losses sustained in the fire. The Case Manager then presented this information to the Long Term Recovery Committee for consideration. The committee deliberated and made their decision on the status of the cases to determine the disbursements. Within days following that meeting the Long Term Recovery Committee Representative presented the results of their meeting to an Executive Oversight Committee who then reviewed the process and either approved or declined the disbursements.
When the disbursements were approved a caseworker would arrange for the clients to replace their lost tools, business equipment, household items or whatever it was that they required.
Local vendors were utilized whenever possible and disbursing orders were issued to the clients to purchase their items. When it was not possible to purchase the needed items from a local vendor a client assistance card was issued to the client.
In the event a disbursement was not approved, the committee was usually seeking further information or documentation. It was rare that the committee did not at least partially approve a client’s disbursements request.
In summary, $434,447.15 was disbursed to 101 applicants for medical and dental needs, household items, tools and business equipment, storage units, rental assistance, and permits to rebuild their homes.
The majority of these clients had an annual income of less than $35,000 and rented their homes prior to the fire.
Pamela Voge, Long Term Recovery Coordinator
American Red Cross, Santa Barbara County Chapter
2707 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105