Progress and Renewal in the Wake of Disaster

It’s been nearly six weeks since the catastrophic 1/9 Debris Flow destroyed hundreds of Montecito homes, some of them belonging to a few of our longtime clients. As authorities started lifting evacuation orders, we accompanied homeowners fortunate enough to have homes to return to. All of us were entering new territory, and it was difficult to comprehend the magnitude of the mudflow and the wreckage left in its wake. While some of our clients had just a few inches of mud in the driveway, others found their properties buried four feet deep across multiple acres. Either way, it was time to get to work. All of us together, learning as we go.  

The first order of business, in some cases, was to call in heavy machinery to clear access paths from the street to the garage, front door, and around the home. This made way for licensed professionals to access the systems, such as power, water, gas, and sewer. We’ve been able to shore up structural instabilities, and send in hand crews (pictured above) to dig out mud from inside a home, being careful to remove it from the exterior of the wall, as well, so that pressure is relieved equally. We’d like to thank the structural engineers out there for that safety tip.

Shovelful by shovelful, truckload by truckload, greater Montecito is slowly returning to some sense of normalcy. Just getting started was a huge step psychologically. Every little bit of progress is progress. Sure helps that the people of Montecito and beyond are banding together (below) to take on the heavy lifting, in all its forms. It takes a community to rebuild a community; we’re just getting started.

Standing with the Community through Fire and Flood


The past two months have been very difficult for Santa Barbara, especially in Montecito, a community Giffin & Crane has been part of for more than 30 years. In December, the Thomas Fire — California’s largest wildfire in recorded history — ravaged the steep coastal mountains above Montecito, stripping the canyons of vegetation and destabilizing several square miles of boulder-filled watershed. A few weeks later, in the early morning hours of January 9, 2018, a powerful rainstorm turned Montecito’s canyons and creeks into torrents of mud, boulders, and uprooted trees. The destruction was catastrophic — dozens of homes were destroyed, hundreds were damaged, and 21 people were fatally injured. To everybody in the wake of the devastation, we extend our deepest condolences and all of our strength and patience in the months and years of rebuilding to come. And to every first responder: We say thank you.

The majority of our clients live in Montecito, and in the immediate aftermath of the storm, we worried about their safety and whereabouts. With great relief, we soon learned that all of them survived the flooding. A handful, however, lost their homes. As custom homebuilders, we understand that very house and its surrounding property is a very personal, one-of-kind extension of the families who brought us aboard to help build their dreams. We’re very proud to be part of those projects, and we’re determined to help rebuild this very special community.  


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