Category Archives: Fire Info

H.O.P.E. after the Thomas Fire

by Jennifer Tipton

Ventura County Behavioral Health has collaborated with a long-term community mental health team called California HOPE of Ventura County, a federally funded and trained community-based counseling program created to support the community after the Thomas Fire.

H.O.P.E. is an acronym for: Helping – Outreach – Possibilities – Empowerment.

The long-term effects of a disaster on mental health come in many stages, the difficult reactions one may experience can occur months after the initial disaster. Individuals that may initially appear unaffected, might later become overwhelmed and unable to effectively cope.

Reactions to a disaster such as the Thomas Fire are emotional, behavioral, cognitive and psychological and do not manifest in any certain order at any specific time.

Family and friends can help to identify these individuals and implement active listening and validation as effective ways to help survivors cope with their loss.

California HOPE services are free and confidential with the goal of implementing effective coping skills.

Services include: Individual and group counseling for

survivors, family and friends / Assessment and referrals /

Distribution of educational materials.

Counseling goals include: Helping disaster survivors understand their current situation and reactions / Reducing stress and providing emotional support / Assisting survivors in creating a wellness and recovery plan / Promoting the use or development of coping strategies and personal resilience / Providing friends and family members with education to support those affected / Connecting survivors to other resources.

Several support groups began mid-June in Ventura, Ojai, Santa Paula and Fillmore with more anticipated. The program is long term, just as the recovery process is long term.

We at the Ventura Breeze encourage those affected by the Thomas Fire to reach out to these services as needed.

If you or someone you know needs support, please contact HOPE of Ventura County at (805) 833-9495 or hopeventuracounty@gmail.com .

County to hold public meetings for Thomas Fire designers and contractors

Designers and contractors planning to work on projects for the reconstruction of buildings damaged or destroyed by the Thomas Fire are invited to attend a public outreach presentation to learn about the building permit process, including the County’s expedited process for fire victims.

Representatives from the California State Licensing Board, Ventura County Building and Safety Department, and other County agencies will be present and available to explain, answer questions, and share information about the permitting process and how to avoid time-wasting pitfalls.

The first meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 27, In the Hall of Administration at the County Government Center, 800 S. Victoria Ave. The meeting will be in in the Lower Plaza Assembly Room, 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Please RSVP at (805) 654-2795 or to marie.becerra@ventura.org.

Separate outreach meetings are being scheduled in Ojai and Upper Ojai for affected property owners to receive information on obtaining a building permit for re-building their homes. The meeting dates and locations will be announced soon, and all are welcome to attend the Ventura meeting.

United Way adds 4th phase to Thomas Fire and Flood Fund distribution

by Jennifer Tipton

Phase I / Immediate Response: Within the first 30 days after the Thomas Fire erupted, United Way partnered with the Red Cross to identify those whose residences were damaged beyond habitability. There was no registration needed and eligibility was not income specific, 750 households were given a $500 pre-paid debit card. The money was distributed based on need with Ventura County receiving the greatest share because of the sheer number of homes lost.

Phase II / Mid-term Recovery: This phase took place in February and continued through April 30th, it allocated about 1.5 million dollars, but recipients had to apply, and income eligibility was set at 120% of the Area Median Income. (For Ventura County, HUD calculates the Area Median Income for a family of four as $96,000. 120% of $96,000 = approximately $115,000). This phase focused on hardship circumstances with most applicants requesting rental assistance. Case management was also provided by partner agencies.

Phase III / A continuation of phase II, phase III began in June and will go through the summer. Phase III was added to include those that did not apply or may have missed the deadline for phase II. The same guidelines apply.

Phase II and III are to support those with hardship circumstances, such as individuals who did not have insurance or those whose employment was interrupted and lost wages due to the fire. In late May, United Way voted unanimously to designate $300,000 for immigrant households affected by the fire because there were many farmworkers and service workers who lost wages.

According to Eric Harrison President and CEO of United Way of Ventura County, “we want to prioritize the most vulnerable population who have unmet needs”.

Phase IV / Long Term Recovery: Just added, any money not dispersed in an earlier phase will be carried over to phase IV. This phase will work with the Long-Term Recovery Group and their case management process to assist households affected by the Thomas Fire to plan for and achieve recovery goals. It will include assessment and verification of need, recovery plan, advocacy and connecting clients with community support. The anticipated timeline for phase IV is September to December 31st.

United Way of Ventura is part of the Long-Term Recovery Group which coordinates the management of the long-term recovery assistance to individuals affected by the disaster who do not have adequate personal resources for basic needs because of the disaster. Recommendations for long term recovery investments will be made by the Long-Term Recovery Case Management Committee.

“The Thomas Fire was a disaster like none other we have experienced, and we have all been impacted by the event in one way or another”, said Harrison.

United Way has raised 4.5 million dollars and I’m told has spent half within six months and has NOT taken any administrative fees. Check the website for eligibility and to see where funds have been distributed, click Thomas Fire Fund at: www.vcunitedway.org

EDC-VC receives $450,000 to help businesses impacted by Thomas Fire

The Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County recently received contributions from the Gene Haas Foundation and Pacific Western Bank to establish a loan fund in response to the Thomas fire and subsequent mudslides. The loan program is now helping businesses at a critical time as they feel the long-term strain of recovery.

The Gene Haas Foundation quickly worked with EDC-VC to establish a $200,000 loan fund for disaster assistance lending to businesses that were affected by the disasters. The loan fund was then augmented with an additional $250,000 from Pacific Western Bank. The funds are benefiting under-capitalized and disadvantaged businesses impacted by the fire that may not qualify for commercial credit.

The loan fund has helped with the initial demand for assistance and provides a significant contribution to the vitalilty of the local retail and service economy.

Businesses located in areas declared a disaster due to the Thomas Fire whose sales were impacted by the fires can submit loan applications by contacting Clare Briglio at 805-409-9159. Loans may be up to $30,000. Larger requests will be managed under separate review processes and credit considerations. Applications will be accepted through August 31, 2018.

As a matter of both business support and lending security, EDC-VC will provide borrowers with technical assistance advisors through its Small Business Development Centers who meet regularly with borrowers to provide comprehensive assistance, to monitor their progress and bolster their ability to repay the loans and remain in business.

Additional business disaster recovery services can be found online at http://edc-vc.com/disaster-recoveryservices/ or on the “Business Recovery” link on the home page of http://venturacountyrecovers.org/. For assistance, please contact EDC-VC SBDC Services Coordinator Alondra Gaytan at (805) 409-9159.

The SBDC is funded by the SBA and provides professional business assistance at no cost to businesses. Participating businesses are required to follow a well-defined scope of work and report their economic successes. These SBA milestones are defined as job creation, increase in sales, capital investment, job retention and business start-ups.

EDC-VC is a private, nonprofit organization that serves as a business-to-government liaison to assist businesses in Ventura County by offering programs that enhance the economic vitality of the region. For more information about the Small Business Development Center and loan, manufacturing and international trade programs, contact Bruce Stenslie at 805-384-1800 ext. 24, or bruce.stenslie@edc-vc.com. Or visit www.edc-vc.com.

Fire, debris flow victims eligible for up to $3,000 rent or mortgage payment assistance

Residents of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties whose homes or rentals were destroyed or severely damaged by the Thomas Fire and Montecito Debris Flow may be eligible for up to $3,000 in assistance thanks to a disaster assistance program established by the affected region’s three Realtor associations.

Beginning immediately, homeowners and renters left homeless by the debris flow and wildfire may apply for reimbursement of one month’s mortgage or rent payment or $3,000 – whichever is less – from the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors, the Ojai Valley Board of Realtors, or the Ventura County Coastal Association of Realtors.

The three local associations joined together and received a total of $650,000 from state and national Realtor housing assistance funds – enough to assist more than 200 families, said Matt Capritto, President of the Ventura County association.

Victims can download application forms at www.vcrealtors.com/community-info/thomas-fire.html, www.sbaor.org/membercenter/realtor-disaster-relief-program/ or www.ojaivalleymls.com. Applicants will need to complete an application, provide a copy of their mortgage statement or rental agreement, which both must include contact information for the lender or landlord, and proof of damage to their primary residence. Each of the three AORs will assess applications and hope to disburse all the funds within three months.

None of the funds will go to administration costs – all will be disbursed to victims, said Ojai Valley association president Sharon MaHarry.

Realtors in both counties have been helping victims since the Thomas Fire broke out on Dec. 4. The associations quickly established a public online rental portal which became the top websites to find temporary housing. And in addition, associations and individual Realtors started clothes drives so disaster victims, who lost everything, could get the necessities such as clothes and shoes.

The Realtors’ Relief Foundation, an arm of the National Association of Realtors, contributed $500,000 to the fund. The California Association of Realtors’ Housing Affordability Fund contributed the remaining $150,000.

Wildfire Story Project to educate the public on wildfire risk

Ventura County Library joins StoryCenter and the California State Library at the launch of the California Wildfire Story Project to educate the public on the issues of wildfire risk and prevention across California. The California Wildfire Story Project is a series of public oral history workshops.

The Ventura County Library events are at E.P. Foster Library. Join filmmakers Kevin White and Stephen Most, in viewing their recently released, Wilder Than Wild documentary film, on the issues surrounding megafires, climate change, and fire control and management policy, Friday, June 22 at 6 pm.

Participant interview sessions are Saturday, June 23 at E.P. Foster Library. To apply for interview participation, please visit: https://www.storycenter.org/ventura-fire-stories-june2018. All events are welcome to the general public and free.

The California Wildfire Story Project is part of California Listens, a multi-year program bringing story-based engagement process to libraries throughout California. The California State Library joins with StoryCenter, Ventura County Library, and public libraries in Mendocino, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, and Napa Counties as part of California Wildfire Preparedness Week.

“The stories of those affected by the mega-fires of 2017 are now an important part of California memory, and deserve to be collected and maintained as part of sustaining our awareness of how our state is coping with the intersection of climate change, environmental and land use policy, and managing the resource of our wilderness areas”stated Joe Lambert, Executive Director, StoryCenter

StoryCenter is an internationally recognized hub of story-based educational and community-centered media practices in service of social justice and social change. Best known as the founders of the Digital Storytelling movement, they work with a cross section of civic institutions in developing programs that capture the lives and experiences of ordinary citizens, and teach accessible media engagement practices to working professionals in the fields of education, health, social services, and human rights. For more information about StoryCenter, contact Joe Lambert, joe@storycenter.org or call 510-292-6513 #CalFireStoryProject

Thomas Fire Stories Project premieres on CAPSTV

ECTV interviewed Ventura Fire Chief Endaya at CAPS studio.

The Thomas Fire Stories project will premiere on Friday, June 1 at 6pm on CAPS Media TV Channel 6. Every Friday evening a new story will début and repeat throughout the week on channel 6 and on CAPS Radio (104.1FM). The ongoing series features personal stories by fire fighters, first responders and community members impacted by the fire. The stories are supported by photos and videos contributed by the public and news agencies.

For the past few months CAPS Media has recorded dozens of first-person stories in the CAPS Media studio and at radio recording events throughout the county. The diversity and depth of the individual experiences is captivating, breath-taking and heart-warming. The Thomas Fire stories include first-hand accounts from fire fighters in the field and directing the army of response from command posts to citizens helping others, fighting to save their homes and fleeing for their lives. The unscripted accounts capture personal experiences of extraordinary heroism, sacrifice, tragedy and healing surrounding the Thomas Fire.

Each 30 minute story will rerun throughout the week. The stories also stream on capsmedia.org and are available on the CAPS Media website at capsmedia.org/videos. Audio recordings will air and stream on CAPS Radio, KPPQ 104.1FM.

The Museum of Ventura County is gathering all of the stories into an all-inclusive archive and will include some of the material in the museum’s Thomas Fire exhibit in the fall. Selected stories from the video series will be included in a comprehensive documentary scheduled to premiere in December – to coincide with the museum’s exhibit and the one-year anniversary of the Thomas Fire.

CAPS Media’s Digital Storytelling Summer program is accepting applications for three-day sessions on June 26 – 28, July 10 – 12 and July 17 – 19. The June 28 session will feature production in the CAPS Media studio, July 10 focuses on documentary production with field and studio production, and the July 17 session is geared to dramatic production. The sessions are geared to ages 10-15 and no experience in media or production is required. Every week crew members receive hands-on instruction in the use of video cameras, audio, lighting, studio production and postproduction editing. The fast paced, activity packed programs are directed by CAPS Media professional staff and assisted by student interns from El Camino’s award winning ECTV media program. Digital Storytelling Summer Sessions will teach teamwork and skills needed to produce commercials, documentaries, news reporting, comedy shows and more that include organization and teamwork. To learn more or sign up call the CAPS Media Center, 805.658.0500 or go to capsmedia.org.

Recently the CAPS Media crew recorded graduation ceremonies for Ventura College and the work continues with recording, broadcasting and streaming graduation ceremonies for El Camino High School (June 8) and Foothill Technical High School (June 14).

Everyone in the community is invited to tour the CAPS Media Center and learn more about the resources available to the public. General orientation sessions are held on the first Thursday of every month at 6pm at the CAPS Media Center which is located at 65 Day Road, on the eastside of Ventura College directly across from Foothill Technology high school. CAPS Media’s mission is to create an engaged and informed community through participation in electronic media. For more information, go to capsmedia.org or call 805-658-0500.

Thomas Fire Evacuees invited to complete survey for chance to win $200

The Ventura County Transportation Commission (VCTC) and University of California, Berkeley Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (UC Berkeley) encourage Ventura County wildfire evacuees to participate in a study

VCTC and UC Berkeley announce the launch of a research project, Understanding the Decision Making Process of Evacuees, designed to learn more about evacuation decisions by households that experienced the December 2017 Southern California Wildfires, including the Thomas, Rye, Creek, and Skirball Fires.

The research project will help gain insight about wildfire evacuations and analyze how individuals make decisions after receiving a mandatory or recommended evacuation order. According to The New York Times, these four wildfires resulted in the evacuation of more than 200,000 California residents.

“VCTC is one of many local partners helping UC Berkeley collect survey responses for this study. The Commission recognizes the critical role transportation systems play in a safe, effective evacuation process,” said Darren Kettle, executive director of VCTC.

Surveys take approximately 20 minutes to complete. Participants are not required to be evacuees to take the survey. All participants will be entered into a drawing to win one of five Amazon Gift Cards each valued at $200. All participants will also have the opportunity to participate in a future focus group.

To participate in the survey, visit this link: https://berkeley.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_5A2yZRTA2HI5ebb&Q_JFE=0

For more information about the Understanding the Decision Making Process of Evacuees survey, contact:

Susan Shaheen, Professor (Faculty Sponsor) sashaheen@tsrc.berkeley.edu or 510-642-9168

Joan Walker, Professor (Faculty Sponsor) joanwalker@berkeley.edu or 510-642-6897

Stephen Wong, Doctoral Student stephen.wong@berkeley.edu or 330-998-4533

The Ventura County Transportation Commission is the regional transportation planning agency committed to keeping Ventura County moving. Program information is available at goventura.org.

USDA announces additional wildfire recovery details

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced new details on eligibility for a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) disaster program, 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (2017 WHIP). In total, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will deploy up to $2.36 billion that Congress appropriated through the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 to help producers with recovery of their agricultural operations in at least nine states with hurricane damage and states impacted by wildfire.

“While USDA has a suite of disaster programs as well as crop insurance available to help producers manage their risk, Congress felt it was important to provide extra assistance to our nation’s farms and ranches that were the hardest hit last year,” Secretary Perdue said.

Wildfire Recovery: Any crop, tree, bush or vine, damaged by a 2017 wildfire is eligible.

Eligibility will be determined on an individual basis, using the level of insurance coverage purchased for 2017 for the total crop acres on the area for which the WHIP application is made. Eligible producers who certify to an average adjusted gross income (AGI) of at least 75 % derived from farming or ranching, including other agriculture and forestry-based businesses during the tax years 2013, 2014 and 2015, will be eligible for a $900,000 payment limitation with verification. All other eligible producers requesting 2017 WHIP benefits will be subject to a $125,000 payment limitation.

Crop Insurance Requirement: Both insured and uninsured producers are eligible to apply for WHIP. However, all producers opting to receive 2017 WHIP payments will be required to purchase crop insurance at the 60% coverage level, or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) at the 60% buy up coverage level if crop insurance is not available. Coverage must be in place for the next two applicable crop years to meet program requirements.

The WHIP factor ranges from 65 % to 95 %. Producers who did not insure their crops in 2017 will receive a 65 % WHIP Factor. Insured producers, or producers who had NAP, will receive between 70 percent and 95 percent WHIP Factors; those purchasing higher levels of coverage will receive higher WHIP Factors.

Drought, wildfires and other disasters continue to impact farmers and ranchers, and 2017 WHIP is just one of many programs available through USDA to help with recovery.

FSA will hold a sign-up for 2017 WHIP no later than July 16. Additional information on WHIP is available on FSA’s 2017 WHIP webpage.

Up to $8,550 in incentives makes rebuilding with more energy-saving systems more affordable

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) announced that, for customers who lost homes in the Thomas Fire or January 9th debris flow, the company will substantially increase financial incentives for those who wish to rebuild using sustainable designs and ultra-efficient appliances. The incentives will be offered through the California Advanced Homes Program (CAHP), which helps offset costs of creating environmentally-friendly energy-efficient homes and communities.

“SoCalGas understands that those who need to rebuild their homes are faced with many challenges, and we hope this additional incentive encourages those who want to build to the highest energy-saving standards can do so more a bit more affordably,” said Lisa Alexander, SoCalGas vice president of customer solutions and communications. “The improved energy savings will allow customers to also save money through reduced energy bills.”

For Thomas Fire and January 9th debris flow victims, SoCalGas will increase CAHP incentive dollars by 50 percent, and will work with planning officials from Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties as well as the Ventura County Regional Energy Alliance (VCREA) to identify those who are eligible. By rebuilding with more efficient appliances, homeowners stand to save on monthly energy costs. The more efficient appliances will also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Ventura County is working diligently to assist residents who lost their homes in the Thomas Fire, and we would welcome and support these efforts to make their new homes more sustainable and energy efficient,” said Chris Stephens, director of the Ventura County Resource Management Agency.

To further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, SoCalGas is working to increase the amount of renewable natural gas – sourced from agriculture and waste – it delivers to customers. A recently-released analysis found that California could achieve the same greenhouse gas reductions as electrifying homes and buildings—but at a much lower cost—by replacing just a fraction of the natural gas that is delivered through our pipelines with this renewable natural gas.

Customers who want to rebuild using CAHP incentives work with their building contractor and a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Rater to have their home features tested and rated using certain California Energy Commission standards. More information is available at socalgas.com.