Residents Anxious to Return to Ventura


by Sheli Ellsworth

Michael O’Brien and his adult son were asleep at midnight on December 4, 2017. Thirty minutes later, Mr. O’Brien’s son woke him after hearing the blare of police sirens. The two fled the home on Hillcrest Drive they had lived in since 1982. They left with the family dog and nothing else. “It was very windy. I could smell smoke, but I didn’t see any flames.” Mr. O’Brien says he had an ominous feeling about the fire but it wasn’t until the next morning that he knew the extent of its devastation. “We spent the night at my brother’s in Faria Beach. We went back the next morning about 8:00. All we could see were ashes, chimneys and fireplaces. There was nothing to salvage.” The O’Brien’s lost everything. “The whole street looked like a war zone.”

Mr. O’Brien immediately contacted the insurance company who had a finder service to help with temporary housing. Mr. O’Brien eventually found his own place that the insurance company pays the rent on. “Our insurance company was quick to react. They set up a tent at the mall and assigned an adjuster who come out a couple of weeks later.”

Mr. O’Brien says that not only did he lose all his worldly possessions, but the home itself held so many family memories. “We are living in Camarillo right now. The dog has adjusted, but my son and I are looking forward to moving back to Ventura.” The O’Briens are in the process of rebuilding. “We hope to have a home by 2020. Hopefully, the contractor will start building soon. The building permit is ready to be picked up at city hall.” O’Brien says that if he had to do it over, he would have bought more insurance.  “There just wasn’t enough to rebuild a house that size.”

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