UC Santa Barbara students and local officials are condemning the illegal lighting of fireworks and burning of furniture in Isla Vista during a hours-long power blackout Tuesday night.
I.V. and the UC Santa Barbara campus lost power late Monday evening as a result of the Thomas Fire burning in Ventura County, and UCSB will convert its gym into an emergency evacuation center to accept up to 200 evacuees.
Thousands of I.V. residents rushed onto Del Playa Drive in response to the power outage while blasting music, setting off small fireworks and burning two couches, a mattress, one chair and a dumpster.
The I.V. Community Services District Board of Directors stressed that Isla Vistans are entitled to a safe environment.
“As community members, we are all responsible for co-producing a safer Isla Vista,” Ethan Bertrand, I.V. CSD president, said in the statement.
Batsheva Stoll, a third-year history of public policy major and the executive vice president of local affairs, also released a statement on Facebook regarding the illegal activity, emphasizing that I.V.must stand together instead of damaging property.
“Not only does this behavior make people feel unsafe in their own homes, but it also makes I.V. look like a community that turns into chaos during extreme conditions,” the statement read.
Kelly Hoover, spokesperson for the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office, said the illegal activity impeded officers from addressing real emergencies.
“Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the series of events diverted resources away from other important calls for service,” she said in the statement.
Fireworks were launched over the ocean and set off at intersections in I.V.’s main residential areas, according to Hoover.
Joan Hartmann, Santa Barbara County Third District supervisor, urged Isla Vistans to refrain from lighting illegal fireworks and burning furniture.
“Our first responders need to focus on evacuating those in the direct path of the fire and not responding to unruly activity in Isla Vista,” she wrote in a statement.
Andi Brooker, a second-year political science and communication double major, saw hundreds of people on Del Playa Monday night. When the lights went out, Brooker said her first thought was, “Oh crap, did I forget to pay the electricity again?!”
She decided to walk to Del Playa Drive with her housemates and saw people walking around the street holding flashlights, strobe lights and even lightsabers. She said fireworks were shooting into the sky above the neighborhood.
“I think the whole thing was absolutely hilarious; the fires are really tragic and awful, of course, but thinking ‘glass half full,’ I think the blackout gave everyone a good study break,” she said in an email.
“Fifty years from now, we’ll all be able to remember that one night dead week became literal dead week.”