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Finishing the Search for Lost Children

John “Jack” Cantin

Since the Debris Flow of January 9, 2018, 21 of the 23 victims have been found. Sadly, two have not. Lydia Sutthithepa and John “Jack” Cantin are still missing. The search for Lydia and Jack lies at the heart of our community’s quest for closure after this horrible tragedy.

Looking for Montecito’s lost children is not something we talk about a lot at the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade, but it is something we have been quietly, persistently doing for more than a year. Most of the mud has been cleaned up from homes and properties throughout the community. But not all of it. And new storms bring down more mud and also exposed previously buried sections of creekbed. There is still a chance that we could find those kids. We have not given up on finding Lydia and Jack.

We are committed to clearing all of the old and new debris between Old Spanish Town and the ocean until the missing children have been found, or until the last pile of mud has been checked and cleared. Clearing the debris also restores harmony to the community and shows resilience.

However, the machines and trucks needed to perform this work cost money. Please consider making a contribution to the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade to help us complete this work. We have received many generous donations and we have put them to work helping to get this community back on its feet. Together, we can help the community move forward and complete the search for Jack and Lydia.

Memorial Benches

The Bucket Brigade is creating a custom memorial bench for each victim of the 1/9 Debris Flow. Located around the community and accessible to the general public, the benches will form a network of lasting memorials to help family, friends, and community members to heal and reflect on the lives lost.

We are coordinating with professional woodworker and Santa Barbara-native David Mosely to build the benches with wood from fallen trees in the community. Fastened to each bench will be a dedicative bronze plaque with text provided by the family of the decedent.  

Our first memorial bench dedication took place for David and Jack Cantin on Sunday, February 24, 2019, at Manning Park. The redwood benches were installed at the entrance to the Scout House, where David had served as scoutmaster and Jack was an Eagle Scout.

Community Self-Rescue (CSR)

In the wake of the Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flow, the Bucket Brigade deployment plan was based on the concept of the Incident Command System (ICS) used by professional first responders. We adapted ICS to allow for rapid scaling of coordinated volunteer and NGO response during the recovery phase of the disaster. We worked steadily through the recovery process, field-testing and adjusting our methodologies based on dynamic and unforeseen circumstances. We realized that our modified ICS was an incredibly effective tool for interagency cooperation and deployment. We began documenting this system for second-response and recovery and have developed a unique solution to the ever-growing problem of disaster relief. We call this model Community Self-Rescue (CSR).

CSR is a direct approach to disaster recovery that rapidly and efficiently deploys people and resources within a community to respond to urgent needs with localized knowledge. Instead of waiting for outside agencies to organize and facilitate the recovery process, CSR empowers the community to work as a team to help survivors get their lives back on track. The Bucket Brigade’s CSR approach is bolstered by the fact that it is led by trusted local residents who understand the needs of impacted neighborhoods and can align with local NGOs and businesses for equipment, meals, and networking. Most importantly, by responding to urgent needs in a rapid and coordinated fashion, the Bucket Brigade galvanized the community belief that, by working together, we could fully recover from the worst disaster in Santa Barbara County history.

Once unified in this way, the greater community implemented one of the biggest and most successful recovery efforts in the region. This is the fundamental tenet of community resiliency: A community united in the belief that by working together in a coordinated way we can get through whatever disasters or crises the future may bring. Our CSR system is an essential component of this resiliency platform and with proper scaling could be replicated statewide.

Moving forward, we are expanding our scope beyond response and reaction into the work of disaster prevention, preparedness, and resiliency building. Our primary focus for 2019 is the full development of our field-tested method for Community Self-Rescue. Our aim is to have a documented and scalable system, training manual, and software platform for successful community mobilization in a disaster.

Youth Leadership Program

In 2019, we will launch our Youth Leadership Program to train high school students in the essential components of emergency response and disaster-relief deployment. Youth will graduate the program proficient in emergency response, leadership skills, and the readiness to serve the community. While meeting community-service hours, youth will also be shown numerous career paths in disaster relief and public health and safety. This civic exposure will benefit the individuals while creating a distributed network of trained cohorts countywide.

The Youth Leadership Program will instruct participants in the essential components of emergency response and effective deployment, including: 

  • CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training in alliance with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department CERT program to educate volunteers in disaster preparedness, fire safety, and light search and rescue.
  • Training in the fundamentals of public health and safety, including basic first aid, CPR, AED, hazard assessment, and Cottage Hospital’s Stop the Bleed.
  • Disaster-relief deployment and leadership training for effective field leaders capable of volunteer recruitment, organization, and deployment.

Community Paths, Trails, and Open Spaces

Partnering with Santa Barbara County Public Works Department and the Workforce Development Board and operating under a Road Enhancement Partnership Project permit, the Bucket Brigade is deploying a labor force — supported by disaster-recovery funding from the U.S. Department of Labor — to improve the safety and aesthetic of county roads impacted by the Thomas Fire, 1/9 Debris Flow, and subsequent winter storms. The first stretch of our roadway enhancement project was completed in January.

With further input from the Montecito Trails Foundation and the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, these crews are also working in public open spaces to improve impacted trail systems, creek corridors, and native oak forests.

This partnership will also collaborate with the Montecito Union and Cold Spring school districts on their “Safe Route to School” projects, designed and executed to increase the roadside safety of children and families walking to and from school.

These projects represent an essential component of Montecito’s long-term recovery from the natural disasters. By rebuilding and enhancing the existing network of pathways we are restoring the physical and psychological interconnectedness of our fractured community. The Bucket Brigade has been clearing mud and debris from homes since the catastrophic event, and the extension of our work into the paths and public rights of way was a natural next step. The wellbeing of Montecito is bolstered by pedestrian access to trailways for recreation and transportation. The improved pathways will also be beneficial for local businesses by increasing foot traffic and connecting the commerce centers of the Upper and Lower Villages and the Coast Village Road corridor.

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