Rain and snow saved Santa Barbara last week. The Cave Fire burst into life on Monday evening and raged on steep mountain slopes covered by 30 year-old vegetation. Bulldozers couldn’t reach the inaccessible terrain, and planes dropping fire retardants couldn’t fly in the dark. 

Despite the efforts of 8,900 firefighters, the fire consumed thousands of acres. On Tuesday, the Fire Department announced that containment – how much of flames on the periphery of the fire could be stopped from spreading–was zero. Yup, zero. Nada. Zilch. 

I had to evacuate.

But later that day, rain arrived. Wonderful! Miraculous! The rains continued the following day, and I returned to my home. But the flooded hillsides had been stripped of protective vegetation. Too much rain could bring mudslides as happened nearby in Montecito two years ago.

The Sheriff’s Department ordered another evacuation.

The night passed with dirt and boulders remaining in place although the rain continued. Then the temperature dropped.  On Thanksgiving morning, I woke to the rare sight of snow on Santa Barbara hillsides. 

This experience reminded me to see that even difficult experiences can have an upside. I love sunshine and dread cold, rainy weather. But this week, each drop was welcome. Not only did they stop the fire, they also provided a beautiful holiday scene. More than that, I am grateful to the firefighters and to my friend who welcomed me and my dog.