Thomas Fire incident community meeting at Buena High School

Over one thousand attended the public meeting.
by Richard Lieberman

Saturday, Dec. 9 a public meeting to discuss the on-going Thomas Fire was held at Buena High School auditorium. The meeting was called to alert residents of the latest developments of the Thomas Fire. Following the meeting the cafeteria was utilized to present several city, county, private and other public agencies, each working from tables set-up in the cafeteria to provide vital information about services available to affected residents.

Matt Lavere Deputy Mayor began the meeting with comments about the situation as of Dec. 9th. “This is the worst natural disaster in the 170-year history of our city”, said Lavere. He also commented about three Ventura restaurants where patrons gave a standing ovation to first responders dining at these restaurants.

Steve Bennett, County Supervisor 1st district was next up and said “I am truly humbled as I watch the progress of firefighters and other first responders” He added “We will continue to fight this disaster and we will get answers on how the fires started and progressed so quickly.”

Mark Watkins, City Manager was next to speak and he was blunt and to the point “This fire is still active, and will take a long time to get it under control”, he said.

Next speaker David Endaya, Fire Chief City of Ventura, said “Our department was able to evacuate 27,000 people in less than an hour.” He also added “This fire came through the city faster than any we have ever seen.”

Other speakers representing emergency services in the city were CAL Fire, City of Ventura Police Chief Ken Corney, Dr. Levin, Public Health Medical Director, Chris Stephens, Director of Resource Management Agency, and Terri Ynez, Deputy Director of Behavioral Health.

Informational table representatives included: Ventura County Recorder’s Office, Red Cross, Ventura County Health Care Agency, Ventura County Consumer Rights and Protection, Ventura Unified School District, Ventura County Tax Assessor, Ventura County Human Services Agency, Ventura County Resource Management Agency, Southern California Gas, Southern California Edison, City of Ventura Community Development, Ventura City Fire, Ventura Water, Ventura Police Department, United States Post Office, and the Department of Insurance.

While at the gathering we were able to talk with a Sacramento Fire Fighter here as a member of Cal Fire Response Team, his journey to Ventura was typical of out of area firefighters responding to the disaster. “Each night we are here we sleep at different locations, the first night I slept in my car no other lodging was available” he said. One night I slept in my sleeping bag on the ground,” he added. Sacramento area responders numbered about one hundred, which included 4 engine companies. These out of area fire fighters are working 24 hour shifts (24 hours on and 24 hours off), and sometimes , because of the severity of the fires they will work 36 to 48 hour shifts.

Here at the Breeze we welcome the generosity and commitment of fire service personnel from all over the Western United States. Thank you all.

Another such meeting was held at Buena High on Dec.16.

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