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Westmont Reads 2014  

Last Updated: Nov 19, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Tea Fire

During the Tea Fire of 2008, those on campus sheltered in place inside the gym, while fire swept across campus and the surrounding neighborhoods. The next day, the community was sad to learn that many buildings on campus and many homes in faculty housing were lost. See more photos from the fire here.


Publishing Opportunity

If you were evacuated and/or lost property during the Tea Fire or Jesusita Fire, Lucky Penny Publishing is looking for essays of about 1000 words to be included in Treasures Lost, Memories Found: Essays from the Santa Barbara Fires to be released in May 2014. If interested, please contact Melissa Marsted at or 805-618-0028. 

For more information, visit and



  1. Free book give away at Voskuyl Library:  Wednesday, February 12th 5th, 1pm until they’re gone!
  2. Book Discussions: all discussions will meet in the Dining Commons, noon-1pm
    1. Wednesday, February 26th
    2. Tuesday, March 4th
    3. Wednesday, March 5th
  3. Panel Discussion on Wildfire: Thursday, March 6th, 2-3pm, Voskuyl Library
  4. Community Conversations, discussions led by experts at local libraries & college campuses
    1. Wednesday, February 12, 6pm. Santa Barbara Public Library, Montecito Branch. Faculty Panel: Peter S. Alagona, History; Karen Lunsford, Writing Program; and Dar Roberts, Geography.
    2. Wednesday, February 26, 4 pm. UCSB Library, Mary Cheadle Room, 3rd Floor. Journalist RAY FORD will speak about "History of Fire in Santa Barbara: Perceptions and Misconceptions"
  5. Author lecture with Timothy Egan: Tuesday, March 4, 8pm at UCSB


About Westmont Reads

The aim of Westmont Reads is to begin conversations that bring awareness to larger issues off campus and to encourage the exchange of ideas across disciplines and among the greater Santa Barbara community by reading and discussing one book together. Other institutions involved include UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Community College, and the Santa Barbara Public Library.


Westmont Joins the Conversation

The purpose of Westmont Reads is to encourage cross-disciplinary conversations around issues relevant to our time. This year's book, The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America, by Timothy Eagan, is about the start of the U. S. Forest Service and  the 1910 wildfire that burned more than three million acres in two days across the forests of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. 

Westmont is no stranger to wildfire and has battled two wildfires on campus in the last five years. Beyond Westmont, wildfires have always been a reality for those living in Southern California and the West at large. In fact the three largest wildfires in California history have occurred in the last ten years. The largest was the Cedar Fire in San Diego in 2003, the second largest was the recent Rim Fire in Yosemite and surrounding area last August, and the third largest was the Zaca Fire in 2007, which was in Santa Barbara County. 


Wildfire Panel Discussion

Thursday, March 6th, 2-3pm, Voskuyl Library

A panel of experts will discuss wildfire in Santa Barbara in conjunction with Westmont Reads. Panelists include:

  • Paul Willis, Westmont Professor of English 
  • Amanda Sparkman, Westmont Professor of Biology
  • Troy Harris, Westmont Assistant VP For Institutional Resilience
  • Katherine Farhadian, Landscape Architect and graduate of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
  • Fire Chief Hickman from the Montecito Fire Department


Timothy Egan Discusses The Big Burn



Wildfire is an important part of the ecosystem in the West, yet when wildfire meets the urban wildland interface, the situation can turn into a natural disaster when structures and people are threatened. It is important to remember that our understanding of wildfire has grown steadily over the last hundred years and wildfire management and policy have been positively impacted. When consuming news about wildfire, one should keep in mind that media reports are “often emotional, hyperbolic and unrelenting” and often do not portray the larger picture (Jensen and McPherson, 2008).

Jensen, S. E., & McPherson, G. R. (2008). Living with fire: Fire ecology and policy for the twenty-first century. Berkeley: University of California Press.


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