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Santa Barbara fire: Couple try to hitchhike their way to fire-scarred neighborhood

May 9, 2009 | 11:50 am


Karen Telleen-Lawton and her husband, David, stood at the Mission Canyon Road blockade, thumbs out, trying to hitch a ride back to what they hoped was their home.

They had evacuated Tuesday from Rattlesnake Canyon. They had covered the deck with fire foam. 
Then they got in their car with seven tubs of belongings and drove away. This morning they were hiking back in, desperate for a look at what the firestorm had left for them. 

But authorities turned them away at the roadblock. News crews and utility trucks rumbled by, but no one stopped to pick them up. Frustrated, they stood there, stalled pilgrims on their journey back to their neighborhood. 

Even though evacuation orders were lifted this morning for most residents, some hard-hit areas remained closed.

 “It would be nice if they could let us back in today,” Karen Telleen-Lawton said. The couple had already managed to sneak into an area that offered a vantage point Thursday night.   A house across from theirs had burned.  But theirs was intact that evening.  Was it still?

 “I’m sure there’s smoke damage,” she mused. “I really don’t know if it’s just a shell.”

 In the distance, the hillside smoldered and trees were singed black. “We love our home,” she said.

-- Ann Simmons

Photo: Santa Barbara residents Karen and David Telleen-Lawton attempt to hitch a ride into Mission Canyon today. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times


Googlemap140 Map: The Times is tracking the path of the Jesusita fire on a Google map. 
Latest: Most fire evacuation orders lifted
Feature: In the eye of the firestorm
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