Category Archives: Fire Info

Kevin Costner to help support community at Thomas Fire Benefit Festival

Kevin’s love, care and concern for this town soon became evident. Photo and article by Pam Baumgardner

I admit, I was nervous to be speaking with three-time Golden Globe and Academy Award winning actor, producer, director and musician, Kevin Costner. I’ve been a long-time fan of his work and have seen him twice in concert with his band Modern West. But within a few moments, I was at ease as I found him as down-to-earth as the Iowan farmer, Ray, he portrayed in the movie Field of Dreams.

Kevin had hoped to be in town for one-on-one interviews to help promote the Thomas Fire Benefit Festival, but the tragic mudslides in Santa Barbara and Montecito had closed down the 101 keeping him homebound so we spoke over the phone and he gave me some background on how the benefit came about.

It was back in 2008 when Kevin reached out to his good friend Tim Hoctor to help produce his concert at Main and California in support of his latest film, “Swing Vote.” It was a huge undertaking, not an easy feat, so it wasn’t something Kevin thought Tim would want to do again, but he made the phone call to Tim who then reached out to Mark Hartley, and the proverbial ball was soon rolling.

Kevin’s love, care and concern for this town soon became evident. He told me it was just days after the start of the Thomas Fire that he knew he had to do something to help. He realizes one can’t know the true devastation of losing one’s home to a wildfire unless you personally have lost your home, but you can be there for people. You can stand with them. And that’s exactly what he wants to do for those who are suffering.

During our conversation Kevin also told me how he had personally taken a drive with a friend to Santa Paula to survey the damage and on their way back he stopped at the home where he grew up at here in Ventura for the first time in forty years. This was his history. The room where his brother left for Vietnam. The same TV room where he saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald when Kevin was only four years old, and where little did he know he’d star in a film on the same subject almost thirty years later (JFK).

The Thomas Fire Benefit Festival will be held at Plaza Park on Saturday, February 3, and will kick off with a VIP Chef Experience followed with live music featuring Kevin Costner and Modern West; Olivia Newton John (on her own recovery tour after second bout with breast cancer); three-time platinum hip hop and rap artist from Ventura, Super Duper Kyle; Grammy award winner, Colbie Caillat; Ventura’s own Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and as Mark Hartley teased, there may be a few more bands added. To keep up-to-date and purchase tickets, go to www.ThomasFireBenefit.com.

We all mourn with the families who lost their homes

by City Council Member Christy Weir

The sudden and fierce Thomas Fire has left a lasting impact on our community. We are proud of our residents and our fire and police departments for facilitating the evacuation of one-fourth of our city within two hectic hours, with no injuries. The fire destroyed over 500 homes in Ventura and we all mourn with the families who lost their possessions and homes. The quick and generous response of our community has been overwhelming, during and after the fire.

Through donations of time, money, household items, food and housing, Venturans have come together to inspire and support one another, moving forward to help those who were impacted. The City has partnered with CalRecycle to quickly clear debris from affected properties, and we are committed to helping each property owner through the permitting and construction process as they rebuild. Three well-loved parks also suffered heavy losses in the fire— Arroyo Verde, Ventura Botanical Gardens and Serra Cross Park. I look forward to collaborating with community volunteers to reconstruct and revitalize these parks as a lasting legacy to the resilience and strength of our beautiful city. We are VenturaStrong!

Monster firestorm

The fireplace was all that remained.

by James Francis Gray

One tentacle of the Thomas fire started in the Koenstein Road neighborhood in upper Ojai with a blown transformer just after 6:30 p.m. Monday, December 4th, 2017. Gusts of fifty mile-an-hour winds whipped the sparks across the landscape destroying many homes, outbuildings and cars. Only a few homes could be saved.

I witnessed the destruction at Beatrix (Trixi) Scantlin’s property three weeks later. Trixi had shared the main house, built over forty years ago, with her son, Mark Scantlin and his wife, Debbie. Trixi’s younger sister, Erika Lohrenz lived in a Mobile home on the property near their horse corral.

When they spotted the orange glow of the rapidly-approaching fire, they decided to take immediate action and evacuate. They moved their two horses to the top of the hill. In wind so strong it was a struggle to stay on their feet, they got the three cats and a dog to the relative safety of their vehicles. Using flashlights, loaded essentials into two cars, Mark and Debbie’s truck and travel-trailer, then began the terrifying journey down the mountain, caravanning to Highway 150. At Summit School they stopped and watched the fire move closer. At 9:00 p.m. they drove to the Humane Society in Ojai, where they left the cats in safekeeping, then stayed the night in the parking lot.

In the morning the family found themselves in heavy traffic for hours as they made their way to the Port Hueneme Naval Base RV Park where they took up residence in Mark and Debbie’s travel-trailer and a rental travel-trailer.

Mark Scantlin is a fire captain for Federal Fire, stationed on San Nicholas Island.

Bad news arrived in the morning. Everything on the property had burned to the ground. Thankfully, the horses and George, aka Lonesome George, their emu, survived, but sadly, the chickens and peacock did not.

The next several days were chaos, but with strong determination the Scantlins and Erika began the arduous task of putting their lives back together.

They established a camping site named Camp Phoenix higher up on their property. Two travel-trailers, a large wooden table between the two, and a decorated Christmas tree now adorn their new living space. The next order of business was to get the utilities hooked up. After Mark got the power from a generator, he primed their well, over a quarter of a mile away down the steep hillside, and laid new piping up to the campsite.

Trixi said, “When we got back home, the first thing we did was have Mark replace our flag.”

Continue the healing through music

At a time when the fires have left so many in need, we are reminded that music is also an important healing tool after a disaster because of its ability to help people process emotions and because in many ways music is a community activity.

In an effort to continue the healing through music, to thank first responders, to give solace those who have lost so much and to celebrate the best in our community, the Ventura Music Festival will present a special free preview concert on Tuesday, January 23 from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. in the Museum of Ventura County Pavilion.

This free event is open to the public and will provide an artist’s preview, entertainment and refreshments. For more information visit http://www.venturamusicfestival.org/.

The need to continue to support each other

Michael White has been a long-term member of the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team.

Going Forward
by Jennifer Tipton

Filling in as the acting Disaster Services Coordinator for Ventura County Behavioral Health for just several months, Michael White had already been a lead in Behavioral Health’s Disaster Response Team for several years and a long-term member of the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team.

In the event of a disaster, Michael and his staff respond to the individuals who have experienced a traumatic event, such as the recent Thomas Fires. Michael states, “the orientation that we take is psychological first aid (P.F.A.), it’s not therapy or trauma counseling, it’s a first aid response that entails listening, validation and normalizing their reaction to the event. We provide education and resources to help them establish a plan.” The teams also provide debriefing to the responders.

Michael is overcome with how rapidly his team acted, “the staff came together with administration even though some were directly affected by the fire themselves.” Teams were mobilized immediately after their initial meeting at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, December 5th and over the course, a total of 478 staff have filled 121 assignments with over 3,000 hours response time collectively.

“From a mental health perspective, I’ve learned a lot about the sheer generosity and resilience of this community, many people had a strong support group already in place and the need for mental health services was minimal”, Michael said.

Although the immediate crisis has subsided, Michael states the next phase will be slower, but his team will still be responding to community needs. “It’s going to shift, people that have held it together during the initial crisis may struggle in the coming weeks”, he said and he wants us all to be aware that just because someone appeared to be doing well initially, the overwhelming support we saw at first has now subsided and some individuals are left very much alone. He warns, in the next couple months, we’ll see who needs additional support, so we still need to keep an eye out for our neighbors and added one last thought,

“whenever there’s tragedy, there’s always an opportunity for hope and positive change.”

If you or someone you know has a mental health emergency or seeking services, please don’t hesitate to call the 24 hour crisis assessment referral line: (866) 998-2243.

Do you want to cuddle?

St. Vincent de Paul in Santa Paula have been donating cuddle blankets and pillow cases that are made by volunteers. It is geared for infants up to 18 years of age and they can also do adult blankets. These are for people who have lost their homes due to the Thomas Fire. They have covered Santa Paula and now would like to help Ventura.

If you would like a blanket or pillow call the Catholic Charities Family Caregiver Center Mon – Thurs 420-9608 and leave your name and number and Kathy will return your call .

Kat Merrick local Leader on the Thomas Fire

Returning to her ranch was a disconsolate moment.

by Randal Beeman

Growing up in hurricane country in South Florida, Kat Merrick learned from her parents that the best response to a natural disaster is to immediately get to work helping others. Naturally, when the Thomas Fire broke out in Santa Paula Merrick was on the phone offering assistance to her extensive network of friends in the Ventura County farming and ranching community. Within minutes her attention focused closer to home as she noticed a glowing red hue through the skylight. In short time the fast racing fire engulfed her ranch property in the hills above Ventura. Merrick lost her house, the three rental units on her property, her crops, and the teaching garden that she planned to use as part of the popular local agricultural education program, totallylocalvc.com.

Typical of Merrick’s community values, she immediately went to work helping her tenants find housing, organizing food relief programs, the Local Love/805Strong project, and persuading corporate sponsors to provide assistance to both fire victims and those impacted by the mudslide in Montecito. Ironically, Merrick had a water tank on the property, which soon melted and spilled its contents down the wrong side of the hill. Realizing she and her boyfriend were helpless to fight the blaze, they alerted their tenants and gathered their dogs as other neighbors fought to save their homes and livestock. Soon they found themselves in a line of traffic on Ventura Avenue, witnessing disturbing scenes of “screaming chaos” in the city.

Returning to her ranch was a disconsolate moment, as even deeply rooted oak trees on her property were torched by the conflagration. Like so many families in Ventura, Merrick looked at what had been her “little sanctuary” and asked herself “where do we start?” One of her tenants had only been on the property for two days. She and her boyfriend have found a small place to rent while they endeavor to rebuild their rentals first, then the one story home that had been the site on numerous gatherings and happy hours with friends and neighbors.

As so many locals report, the process of starting over is going to take years. Scraping the lot of toxic ash was an early priority, as will be restoring ground cover on the denuded, vulnerable hillsides. Merrick found, as have others, that the insurance company was helpful at the onset of the crisis but whether that cooperation will continue is a tenuous proposition. An example: the housing crisis in Ventura County is being exacerbated by the Thomas Fire, and there appears to be some push back from insurers in regards to the cost of renting while properties are being rebuilt. Merrick was quick to praise the County of Ventura for fast tracking the permit process.

Merrick noted that the impact of the fire on the local agricultural community – lost crops, dead or injured stock, and a lack of grazing land – will impact this essential industry for years. Her voice teamed with energy as she spoke of the tenacity of local farmers, ranchers, and farm workers, Merrick embodies the time honored saying: “lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.” Though her cherished home on the range was taken by the Thomas Fire, Merrick is well on the way to doing what she loves best, ensuring that “future chefs will get their hands in the dirt” as Ventura County rebuilds its agricultural base.

Seminar on Local Investment in Energy Generation Jan. 11

The Ventura County Climate Hub invites the public to a panel discussion about localizing sources of energy for our region. Topics will include the progress for cities joining Los Angeles Community Choice Energy, the challenge from the CPUC that may delay participation, So Cal Edison’s plans for a 4th power line into our region, and the status of a grant application by Ventura County to fund accelerated residential energy efficiency. The implications of the upcoming So Cal Edison Request for Proposals for regional energy generation and storage will be explored, along with the feasibility and funding of an independent analysis of the power grid for the Moorpark-Goleta region.

Ventura County Climate Hub is a grassroots, non-partisan local affiliate of 350.org with 26 local partner organizations and hundreds of people engaged in the full spectrum of ways to reverse climate change.  Partner organizations like CFROG and World Business Academy report on their actions and campaigns.

Thursday, January 11,  6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Unitarian-Universalist Church of Ventura, 5654 Ralston St,  rear parking lot to Fellowship Hall.

Ventura County residential and commercial taxpayers can do more to develop renewable energy projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create local jobs and stimulate our economy. The California Public Utilities Commission is proposing to seriously delay the development of those opportunities. We will discuss in particular the CAISO analysis of the 4th power line proposed by SoCal Edison and the need for an independent analysis that explores the potential to localize generation in the Moorpark-Goleta region of the grid. We will learn more about the potential for 100% localized Distributed Energy Generation with solar and other sources from rooftops, parking lots and battery storage. A limiting factor for localization of the regional grid is the willingness of commercial property owners to support and participate in projects. The potential for more generous feed-in tariffs under Los Angeles Community Choice Energy is of great importance in motivating property owners to invest

We Are Ventura Part 2

by Jennifer Tipton

It came without warning, on Monday, December 4th, late into the evening, sudden panic shattered our sleepy little seaside town, we’ve seen many tragedies across the country, but never here…not in our hometown!

That’s not entirely true, on March 12, 1928 the man-made St. Francis Dam in Northern Los Angeles County burst and sent a night long torrent of water, mud and debris racing down the Santa Clara River to the ocean destroying homes in Piru, Bardsdale, Fillmore, Santa Paula and Saticoy, killing more than 450 people. Victims of this disaster were swept away with the debris; some bodies were never recovered.

In Ventura, we live with the threat of tsunamis, earthquakes and the inconvenience of those pesky Santa Ana winds all the time, but on the night of December 4th, those “pesky” winds turned savage and fueled the worst fire our city has ever seen.

And now, the worst wildfire on record in California, as of December 28th 281,893 acres had burned (that’s an area larger than New York City) and surpasses the Cedar Fire in 2003 that consumed 273,000 acres. The official list dates back to 1932, prior records are less reliable, but some say the 1889 Santiago Canyon Fire scorched 300,000 acres!

Originating in the hills in Santa Paula fueled by ferocious winds, the Thomas Fire has consumed much of our hillsides and many of our homes. As of December 28th, there is 91% containment and crews are expected to continue working 24/7 into January.

But … we will recover, and we will rebuild because

We Are Ventura!

Back home to appreciate view

A few days after the house of Ron & Barbara D’Incau had burnt down, Ron went to Goodwill and bought two chairs and an umbrella so that they could sit and enjoy the beautiful Ventura sunset. He said, “That is one of the main reasons that we bought the house.” You will learn more about them in an upcoming issue.