IN THE NEWS

Stay up to date on TPRC's actions to build resilient communities.

May 19, 2022

THE INDEPENDENT

According to a $600,000, 168-page study of the historical record entitled “Fire, Flood and Landslide Dam History: Community of Montecito and Vicinity” and released this spring by the Project for Resilient Communities, these events are far from rare.

March 22, 2022

MONTECITO JOURNAL

In a bittersweet ceremony, Montecito’s The Project for Resilient Communities (TPRC) on Sunday received a prestigious national award for the private-public project that installed protective ring nets in canyons where deadly torrents surged down in the 1/9 disaster.

March 17, 2022

MONTECITO JOURNAL

The Project for Resilient Communities is presented with the prestigious National Service Award by retired U.S. Army General Russel Honoré, but there is still work to be done.

March 16, 2020

NOOZHAWK

Debris nets in three Montecito creeks will be in place at least through the rest of 2020, since the Santa Barbara County Planning and Development Department issued a second emergency permit in December. “P&D granted the emergency permit based on a statutory exemption due to clear and imminent risk to life and property posed by the threat of debris flow events during the upcoming winter rain season,” county staff wrote in a March 10 report to the Board of Supervisors.

December 3, 2019

KEYT NEWS

Designed to hold back debris and rocks during most storms, the newly installed Montecito ring nets are getting a test in critical areas that sit below the Thomas fire burn zone. Six nets are in place as part of a sweeping plan to protect Montecito homes were devastating impacts and 23 deaths took place on January 9, 2018. That was one month after the Thomas fire which wiped out ground cover on the steep local hills from Ventura County to Santa Barbara.

June 19, 2019

NOOZHAWK

The Montecito debris nets project received development plan approval Wednesday, a follow-up to the emergency permit allowing a private nonprofit organization to install the steel-mesh nets. The Partnership for Resilient Communities, headed by former Santa Barbara Fire Chief Pat McElroy, received a county emergency permit for 11 nets in December and has installed four of them in three Montecito canyons: the west and east forks of Cold Spring Creek, San Ysidro Creek and Buena Vista Creek. The Montecito Planning Commission found that the project is within the scope of the emergency California Environmental Quality Act exemption granted last year and approved the project on Wednesday.

May 8, 2019

SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT

To reduce the risk of another deadly debris flow, the first of six ring nets was installed Tuesday in San Ysidro Canyon by the nonprofit Partnership for Resilient Communities. The project is the result of more than a year’s effort securing permits and private fundraising. The debris-control nets will be installed in spots that can catch flood material: two in San Ysidro Canyon, two in Cold Spring Canyon, and two in Buena Vista Canyon. Depending on funding, Hot Springs Canyon and Romero Canyon will follow.

May 7, 2019

KSBY

It was an exciting day Tuesday for the Montecito community as one of at least six debris nets was installed in a canyon above the town. Many are now relying on these nets to prevent another disaster like last year’s deadly mud and debris flow. After a more than two-hour delay due to fog, a helicopter coming from Paso Robles was able to pick up the net and help install it in San Ysidro Canyon. Those that have been involved in this project hope this will help put the community at ease.

Steel-Mesh Debris Net Being Installed in San Ysidro Creek in Montecito

May 7, 2019

NOOZHAWK

Installation of the first steel mesh debris-catching net got underway Tuesday in San Ysidro Canyon above Montecito. The GeoBrugg flexible debris-control net, made by a Swiss company, is strategically positioned with the aim of reducing the impact of future debris flows triggered by intense rains across the Thomas Fire burn area.

April 19, 2019

KCRW – 805 PODCAST

The impacts of the January 9, 2018 mudslides were so devastating that the affected communities band together for a plan to help prevent this from ever happening again. That plan includes installing massive metal nets in these canyons, which are designed to catch debris before it hits residential areas. After permits were secured and tons of money raised — privately — workers broke ground last week.  The initiative comes from the non-profit The Partnership for Resilient Communities and is headed by retired Santa Barbara city fire chief, Pat McElroy.

April 10, 2019

KEYT

Construction in San Ysidro Canyon begins Thursday - MONTECITO, Calif. - After early concerns that Wednesday’s wind gusts made it unsafe to fly, a helicopter took off to help deliver supplies to the first installation site for steel “ring nets” in the canyons above Montecito. Former Santa Barbara City Fire Chief Pat McElroy leads the Partnership for Resilient Communities. The local nonprofit started the project to build the nets in hopes they could slow or prevent damaging mudslides during intense rain storms. The first installation site is in San Ysidro Canyon, just under a mile north of San Ysidro Ranch. 

April 10, 2019

SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT

Helicopter Transports Equipment to Safety Site - Strong winds backed off for a few hours early this afternoon in Montecito, allowing a helicopter pilot to transport heavy duty construction equipment into San Ysidro Canyon, the site of a privately funded safety project designed to protect neighborhoods from another catastrophic debris flow. With $4.3 million in donations, The Partnership for Resilient Communities nonprofit group has been permitted to install two so-called debris nets, or ring nets, in San Ysidro Canyon and one net apiece in the east and west forks of Cold Spring Canyon. 

March 18, 2019

KEYT NEWS

The plan to install ring nets in the creeks and mountain drainages that are prone to debris flows in Montecito and Carpinteria is about to move forward. Organizers from The Partnership for Resilient Communities, a non-profit group thanked their supporters at an outside luncheon in the Upper Village of Montecito.  They have about $4-million towards a $5-million project and are asking for more donations of any level to reach their goal.

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March 14, 2019

NOOZHAWK & SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT

Seventeen storms, 32 inches of rain on the mountainside, and three large-scale evacuations have kept South Coast residents on edge this winter, especially below the burn scar of the Thomas Fire. Since the rains began in mid-November, county crews have cleaned out the debris basins in Montecito and Carpinteria nine times, carting away about 11,000 truckloads of mud, boulders and fallen trees that have washed down the canyons and into the urban area. The cleanup has cost the county $2.6 million

February 13, 2019

KSBY NEWS

The Partnership for Resilient Communities, a group of Montecito residents, is making major progress on their ambitious plan to install debris flow nets above Montecito. So far, the group has managed to crowdfund millions of dollars to order the nets that could help prevent another tragedy.

February 11, 2019

NOOZHAWK

Six debris-control nets have been ordered, and construction to install the anchors in Montecito creeks could start next week, according to Pat McElroy, head of The Partnership for Resilient Communities nonprofit behind the project. Santa Barbara County and other regulatory agencies gave emergency permits to the group in December to install 11 steel-mesh nets in three Montecito creeks, all on private property.

February 10, 2019

NBC NIGHTLY NEWS

Residents in an area with high risk of mudslides believe steel mesh nets from Switzerland are the key to stopping the next deadly tragedy. They function as a “shock absorber” to stop rocks from bursting through.

January 16, 2019

KSBY

Ellen DeGeneres sat down with Les Firestein and Pat McElroy, who created an organization called The Partnership for Resilient Communities to help with the recovery from last year's devastating mudslides in Montecito, California. They talked about their efforts and the progress since the disaster, and how they're also helping other communities in similar situations.

January 10, 2019

MONTECITO JOURNAL

As Montecito prepares to remember the year-ago January 9th mud and debris flow and the devastation it caused, Santa Barbara City Fire Chief Pat McElroy – now Executive Director of the Montecito based Partnership for Resilient Communities – smiles big holding the group’s hard-won SB County Emergency Debris Flow Protection Plan Permit allowing for placement of up to 11 steel ring nets in the canyons above Montecito designed to prevent a recurrence... ever again.

January 8, 2019

NOOZHAWK

Residents and first responders recall and reflect on the fateful Jan. 9 events that reshaped their world. A year ago, 23 people were killed in Montecito when massive debris flows crashed through the community in the dark of night, destroying nearly everything in their paths. Homes were ripped apart, a massive search-and-rescue effort saved residents from the mud, boulders and debris, and the destruction was so extensive that the bodies of two victims still have not been found. In the day or so preceding the rainstorm that brought down the mountains, Santa Barbara County declared a local emergency; areas ravaged by December's Thomas Fire were vulnerable to floods, mudslides and debris flows.

January 8, 2019

SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT

From the devastating and tragic Montecito debris flow on January 9, 2018, Montecito Firefighters tell their stories in their own words and with their photos.

January 8, 2019

NOOZHAWK

Partnership for Resilient Communities has February deadline to install the permitted debris control nets in Cold Spring, San Ysidro and Buena Vista creeks. With permits in hand, the nonprofit group planning to install debris-catching nets in Montecito creeks is busy fundraising the estimated $7 million needed for construction, maintenance and insurance. Regulatory agencies approved emergency permits for The Partnership for Resilient Communities’ proposal in December, and Santa Barbara County’s approval has a mid-February deadline to put in the nets, said Pat McElroy, the nonprofit’s executive director and former Santa Barbara city fire chief. “Nobody ever thought we’d get this far, let’s face it,” he said Monday. “Having another challenge is just another day.”

January 7, 2019

NPR KCLU RADIO

This week marks the one year anniversary of the deadly 1/9 debris flow in Montecito which killed 23 people, injured more than 150, and destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes and businesses. With concern high that this year could bring more destructive debris flows, some residents formed a non-profit group which is trying to stand up to Mother Nature.

December 21, 2018

SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT

Privately Funded Project Aims to Mitigate Debris Flows. An ambitious and controversial project to install steel “ring nets” in canyons above Montecito was permitted today by the Santa Barbara County Planning and Development department. “The project consists of a temporary debris flow prevention and mitigation system that will be located in … Cold Spring Canyon, San Ysidro Canyon, and Buena Vista Canyon,” according to the emergency permit issued to The Partnership for Resilient Communities, a nonprofit underwritten mostly by wealthy Montecito residents.

December 21, 2018

NOOZHAWK

Santa Barbara County' allows nonprofit to install and maintain nets for one year, then remove them; fundraising continues. The Montecito group behind the debris-net proposal proposed for the Montecito foothills said Friday that permitting agencies have signed off on a large portion of the project, approving the installation of nets in three creeks.  The nonprofit group, called The Partnership for Resilient Communities, has been working on the debris-net project proposal for months, and filed emergency permit applications to install 15 nets across Cold Spring, Hot Springs, San Ysidro, Buena Vista and Romero creeks on private land.trees.

Emergency Authorization Granted to The Partnership for Resilient Communities for Debris Flow Mitigation Project

December 21, 2018

PROJECT FOR RESILIENT COMMUNITIES

SANTA BARBARA, CA; December 21, 2018 – All of the emergency authorizations for a Santa Barbara non-profit group to proceed with constructing 11 debris flow protection nets in the canyons above Montecito have been granted today by four federal, state and local agencies, The Partnership for Resilient Communities announced.     

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December 20, 2018

LOS ANGELES TIMES

During severe winter storms, Cold Springs Creek above Montecito turns into a torrent of mud, uprooted trees and shed-size boulders as it drains three square miles of sheer mountain front. The only thing protecting the people, homes and businesses below is a low dam that the Army Corps of Engineers built in 1964 at the mouth of the creek’s canyon, forming a basin between the steep banks to catch the crashing debris. Over the decades, the basin filled up with sediment and grew thick with brush and trees.

December 20, 2018

NOOZHAWK

Nonprofit Partnership for Resilient Communities has spent months pursuing project with estimated $7 million price tag and is waiting on permit decisions - Almost a year has passed since walls of boulders, mud and debris roared down the steep, fire-denuded canyons above Montecito, leaving death and devastation in their paths. Despite that passage of time, emergency management officials believe there is a significant ongoing risk of debris flows and flooding, since vegetation regrowth can take several years to stabilize the hillsides. With the rainy season underway, the fear of another disaster seems to ride in with every storm, raising questions about what, if anything, the community can do to protect itself.

December 13, 2018

SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT

A year ago today, December 13, the Thomas Fire had swallowed large swaths of Ventura County and crept to within striking distance of Montecito. Within just a week, it would leap into Santa Barbara’s front country and set the stage for the late-night debris flow that took 23 lives. In the immediate aftermath, KCRW and the Santa Barbara Independent interviewed residents and responders about what they’d experienced and what they thought might come next.

December 7, 2018

SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT

Emergency Permitting Process Makes More Headway - A privately funded project to install steel ring nets in five Montecito canyons is slowly moving forward as a handful of regulatory agencies consider the emergency nature of the permit application now under review by Santa Barbara County’s planning department. The Partnership for Resilient Communities, a nonprofit assembled in the wake of the deadly 1/9 Debris Flow and underwritten in part by wealthy Montecito homeowners, is aiming to install more than a dozen ring nets in Cold Spring, Hot Springs, San Ysidro, Buena Vista, and Romero canyons. In the event that rainstorms produce debris flows this winter, the nets are designed to slow mudflows laden with boulders and trees.

December 6, 2018

SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT

A Shift to a Culture of Disaster Preparedness Is Required - As the search continues for the residents of the fire-ravaged Paradise, California, it is clearer than ever that climate is changing in ways that spur unforeseen and devastating natural disasters, such as wildfires, droughts, record-breaking temperatures, mudslides and floods. The tragedies Californians are now experiencing align with the global trend of climate related natural disasters steadily rising over the past few decades.

November 25, 2018

SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT

The Partnership for Resilient Communities was formed in the wake of the 1/9 Debris Flow in Montecito that caused the deaths of 23 residents, injuries to 165 others, and a total loss or damage to 527 homes. Twenty-eight commercial buildings were damaged or destroyed. The 101 highway was closed for two weeks, disrupting the economy of the entire State of California. Property values in Montecito have taken a significant hit. Resilient Communities is a group of local citizens who came together to research if there was anything that could be done to assist our local government in the recovery and to see what possible mitigation strategies might be available to us. Recently, the Independent published an opinion piece by a community member that needs a response. The facts about our proposal are listed here, as well as the experts who have studied our mountains and advised on a solution that could help protect us.

October 25, 2018

THE SACRAMENTO BEE

Brent Larson awoke at 4 a.m. to the shake and rumble of what felt like a freight train rolling down the hill toward his Santa Barbara County home. He leaped from his bed and woke his two sons. In seconds, a wall of water, mud and rock slammed into his house, smashing through one window, then the next, then a third, pouring in as the trio sprinted to the safety of the chimney at the home’s far corner. “It was like out of ‘Indiana Jones,’” he said, nine months later, still shaken. He was lucky. Twenty-one of his Montecito neighbors were killed that Jan. 9 night, and 400 homes damaged or destroyed.

October 25, 2018

NOOZHAWK

An updated debris-flow evacuation map showing the Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria areas affected by the devastating Jan. 9 storm was released by Santa Barbara County on Thursday afternoon. The interactive online map was reviewed by operational staff from fire, law enforcement and county flood officials, said Deputy Chief Kevin Taylor of the Montecito Fire Protection District. The map published by the county Office of Emergency Management will be updated when additional analysis is complete, Taylor said, and more map changes are expected to be finished and released in early December.

October 22, 2018

MONTECITO JOURNAL

Pat McElroy had been fighting fires for the City of Santa Barbara for 37 years, serving as fire chief for the last five, and was poised to retire. Yes, Santa Barbara is a great place to live, and firefighters consider the city one of the most desirable work details in the nation. But wildfires are becoming larger and occurring with greater frequency, and McElroy had tackled his fair share. He was, as he put it, “More than ready to begin a new chapter.” At noon on December 4, 2017, the City of Santa Barbara sent out a press release announcing McElroy’s intention to step down in 100 days. Just six hours later, the Thomas Fire sparked north of Santa Paula.

October 11, 2018

SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT

In the wake of last winter’s Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flow, greater Santa Barbara was stunned. We had just witnessed back-to-back forces of nature kill 25 people, destroy more than 100 homes in the county, and traumatize those families who survived. Many of us didn’t know what to do, but we knew we wanted to help. In the months that followed, thousands of volunteers took action, handing out food, digging out homes, and helping survivors find new places to live, fill out disaster-relief paperwork, navigate insurance claims, and talk with therapists about their life-altering traumas. Others donated equipment and services. Some launched spur-of-the-moment nonprofits, to which many more wrote checks to help keep the recovery work alive.

September 13, 2018

SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT

As the rainy season draws near, an ambitious plan to protect Montecito residents and properties from another catastrophic debris flow is quickly taking shape. Underwritten by the Partnership for Resilient Communities — a nonprofit formed in the wake of the 1/9 Debris Flow — geologists and engineers have been scouting the upper reaches of Montecito’s major canyons for areas where anchored steel “ring nets” could likely stop torrents of boulders and uprooted trees unleashed by intense rainfall. 

August 11, 2018

SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT

Nonprofit Seeks Approval and Funding Before This Winter. In a move to prevent loose boulders and debris from crashing into creek-side neighborhoods during the next big rainstorm, the nonprofit Partnership for Resilient Communities is planning to install steel ring nets across canyons above Montecito. 

July 26, 2018

MONTECITO JOURNAL

The Montecito community faces a difficult 2018-2019 winter season. If we get too little rain, we will return to drought worries; too much rain and Montecito residents face evacuation and the possibility of additional mud and rock flows. Of the two perils – severe drought versus debris flow – the more pressing danger is the fear of a repeat performance of the January 9 debris flow that destroyed or damaged 14% of the residential housing in Montecito.

June 21, 2018

MONTECITO JOURNAL

In an exquisitely crafted 2006 article about debris flows written for Canyon Voices and specifically about the nature of Rattlesnake Canyon, Karen Telleen Lawton wrote: “Barely a thousand years ago – a second on a geologist’s watch – a rainwater and boulder slurry called a debris flow surged through [Rattlesnake Canyon], strewing its 10 million cubic yards of rocky bilge into what is now the city of Santa Barbara.”

May 10, 2018

MONTECITO JOURNAL

The Thomas Wildfire and the January 9 debris flow have presented the county with the most complex disaster recovery and preparedness scenarios in California history. The confluence of events leading to the twin disasters was unprecedented, the threat of a repeat disaster is still imminent, acceptable mitigation solutions are still amorphous, and their costs uncertain.

May 3, 2018

SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT

Fifty scientists, engineers, and emergency officials met Monday at the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) for an all-day symposium to evaluate the 1/9 Debris Flow — and what they had to say was not reassuring.

May 1, 2018

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

With a unanimous vote, the Board of Supervisors accepted a donation from Partners for Resilient Communities to hire experts for augmented disaster consulting services related to the Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flow, and determined that the action is not a project subject to CEQA review because it is does not involve any commitment to any specific project which may result in a potentially significant physical impact on the environment. 

April 12, 2018

SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT

Montecito has a new billionaires club. A group of influential residents has formed the new nonprofit Partnership for Resilient Communities to contribute money to the county government’s post-1/9 Debris Flow recovery effort. It is a public-private partnership funded by at least three anonymous donors whom the group described as billionaires.

January 11, 2018

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF BUILDING SCIENCES

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared 2017 the costliest year on record for weather and climate disasters. Fortunately, there are measures governments, building owners, developers, tenants and others can take to reduce the impacts of such events. The National Institute of Building Sciences reports that every $1 spent on hazard mitigation can save the nation $6 in future disaster costs. The Institute used 23 years of federally funded mitigation grants provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for their study.