Cheers erupted at an evacuation center when Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown announced that mandatory evacuation orders for most areas were being downgraded to evacuation warnings, meaning residents could return but would have to remain alert.
Among the first to return were Jonathan Kenny, 44, and his wife, Susan Kim, 42, who found their home covered in ash but still standing near blackened hillsides that showed just how close the fire came.
"I feel like we dodged a bullet on this one," said Kenny, who watered plants and fed goldfish in a backyard pond.
"They're not floating belly up, so that's a good sign," Kim said.
But a short distance away up a narrow canyon road, gutted homes and burned out cars awaited the return of their owners. A scorched palm tree jutted toward a clear, blue sky and a lawn chair, scorched appliances and metal filing cabinets were among the few recognizable remnants.