A favorite tree (and a college) are singed but spared: the Westmont fire

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Westmont College website has photographs of damage from the fire that raced through campus last Thursday evening. Few colleges offer the kind of beauty that Westmont does, nestled in the oak-covered hills of Montecito. I first visited Westmont when my daughter Aileen was a high school student trying to settle on a university. She did not submit a backup application to any other institution.

The downside of that beauty is a vulnerability to the windswept flames that almost yearly burn somewhere in Southern California. This fire approached from the woods north of campus and cut through Clark Residence Halls (a collection of 17 separate buildings: Aileen roomed there 1995-97). It took some parts of Clark and spared others. Then it descended through the center of campus by way of the wooded strips that make Westmont so distinctive. Flames destroyed math and physics buildings that had already been marked for demolition, the psychology building, and over a dozen faculty homes, but no one was hurt.

I last visited the Westmont campus in December. Aileen and Eduardo held their wedding in Santa Barbara and we used Westmont as a backdrop for their wedding photographs. We took most of our pictures in the formal gardens that stretch downhill from Kerrwood Hall.

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The gardens mostly survived, though the fire took the woods in the right side of this view. Aileen also wanted pictures outside the small white chapel that is flanked on both sides by oak groves, and then a playful series with Aileen and Eduardo playing peek-a-boo around the trunk of a nearby giant.
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The Westmont website pictures show that while the groves on both sides are cinders, the chapel still stands, and the peek-a-boo tree looks scorched, but alive. In fact, that’s a pretty good summary of the 47 photos in the series: Westmont is scorched but alive.


Thank you for posting. And congratulations on the wedding of your daughter.
Our son and his now wife, graduated from Westmont in May this year. They were both RA's in Clark.
It's incredibly sad to see the devastation and imagine what everyone has gone through in this fire. I'm so thankful though that no one was physically hurt.

Olson Group said...
November 17, 2008 at 3:55 AM  

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