Category Archives: Fire Main

A community coming together with Thomas Fire fundraisers

Even vehicles will need to be replaced.

The Thomas Fire Fund is a coalition of the United Way, the Red Cross and the Sheriff’s Department. 100% of the funds go directly to those affected by the Thomas Fire. For more information visit http://www.unitedwayla.org/ventura_county_thomas_fire

January is National Mentoring Month, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County (BBSVC) is celebrating with some very special events and activities, with a message of volunteerism and thanking First Responders in Ventura County.

All month long, Bigs and Littles will be creating handmade thank-you cards for Ventura County’s First Responders. Bigs and Littles will have the opportunity to present these cards to our local heroes at a special First Responders Lunch on Sunday, January 21st, at the Vagabond Coffee Shop on Thompson. And they will pull free raffle prizes for those First Responders in attendance, which include gifts like tickets to Disneyland!

Thomas Fire Benefit Concert at Discovery Ventura, Friday January 19.

The Concert features The Delgado Brothers, Teresa James and The Rhythm Tramps, The Guy Martin Band and Ray Jaurique and The Uptown Brothers, hosted by Lillian Schwartz, and Ventura’s own, Ashford Gordon and one of Southern California’s favorite comediennes, Denise Carter.

100 % of the net box office funds raised will go to Ventura County FOOD Share food bank as well as the United Way Thomas Fire Fund and the Red Cross Thomas Fire Fund who have partnered with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services. Doors will open at 6 PM with Ray Jaurique and The Uptown Brothers scheduled to open at 7 PM.

A free diamond necklace to anyone who lost their home due to the Thomas Fire. To claim they only need to show their ID at Fox Fine Jewelry. There are three necklaces to select from. All necklaces were designed by Fox Fine Jewelry. See ad in this issue for more information.

Ventura Harbor Comedy Club is offering Comic Relief in the form of free admission to victims of the Thomas fire, firefighters and their families and first responders. This offer will last until the end of March, and will be good for all show except for “Special Events. This offer will be on the honor system. Just mention the offer over the phone, or at the box office, and identify yourself as someone affected by the fire, or a firefighter, or first responder, or a family member of a firefighter or first responder, and you will be admitted with no cover charge no questions asked.

Reservation line is 644-1500.

Long beloved for its sense of community and ‘give back’ spirit, Spencer Makenzie’s is planning an ongoing fundraiser for the family of firefighter Cory Iverson, 32, who tragically lost his life fighting the Thomas Fire. The San Diego resident is survived by his wife, Ashley, who is expecting a second child in the spring, as well as a two year old daughter.

Spencer Makenzie’s will donate fifty cents of every bottle sold of their most popular hot sauce, Sweet Chili Fire, into a fund that will be turned over to the family after December 31, 2018. Interested parties can find the hot sauce at Spencer Makenzie’s as well as online.

Thomas Fire Benefit Festival on Saturday, February 3 in Plaza Park with outstanding entertainers and more. See the ad and article in this issue for more information.

Sign up for no-cost CalRecycle fire debris removal program

The deadline is approaching for residents affected by the Thomas Fire to sign up by filing Right-of-Entry forms for no-cost debris removal services from CalRecycle for severely damaged or destroyed property. Through this program, all the work is undertaken by CalRecycle contractors and there is no direct cost to the property owner; however, where applicable, insurance proceeds for debris removal shall be dedicated to offset costs.

“This is an extraordinary benefit for property owners who have suffered devastating losses,” said Mike Powers, County Executive Officer. The program is funded through a combination of federal, state, city and county funds.

The CalRecycle program includes the removal of all burnt debris, foundations, dangerous trees, and contaminated soil. The program also includes soil testing before and after the debris removal to ensure the site is clean and safe for building. In addition, air samples are taken during the debris removal process to protect neighboring properties from hazardous dust and air contaminants.

Fire victims are strongly encouraged to complete and submit a Right-of-Entry form before the January 22, 2018 deadline. Forms are available at venturacountyrecovers.org, the County Government Center, Ventura City Hall, and the Debris Removal Operations Center (DROC). The DROC is located at 290 Maple Court, Suite 120. The County Government Center is located at 800 South Victoria Avenue.

The County Environmental Health Division has a special counter at the County Government Center to assist property owners and accept completed Right-of-Entry forms. Property owners unable to go to the Government Center can submit their Right-of-Entry forms and other paperwork by email at EHDThomasfire@ventura.org. Email submittals may take longer to process.

Todd Thalhamer, CalRecycle senior solid waste engineer said, “Our goal is to assist the county in its efforts to clean up the damaged properties and return their communities back to their residents as soon as possible. The sooner residents enroll in the program, the sooner I can bring in additional crews to accomplish that.”

Both the County Government Center and the DROC are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The DROC is also open on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. if residents have questions.

Additional information meetings set in Ventura for CalRecycle debris removal services

Two additional informational meetings have been scheduled in Ventura for residents in the city of Ventura and the unincorporated areas of the county affected by the Thomas Fire who are seeking debris removal services from CalRecycle for severely damaged or destroyed property. The information to be presented in these meetings is identical, so residents can attend the most convenient meeting for them.

The meetings will be held:

Saturday, January 13, at 11:00 a.m.
Ventura Baptist Church
5415 Ralston Street, Ventura.

Tuesday, January 16, at 6:00 p.m.
Ventura Baptist Church
5415 Ralston Street, Ventura.

At the meetings, residents will hear information from the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) and the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) about the second phase of the debris removal. After the presentation, representatives from CalRecycle and CalOES will be available for breakout sessions with residents to answer individual questions. Spanish translators and sign language interpreters will be available at both meetings.

CalRecycle teams are already out in neighborhoods visiting residents who have signed up for the program and submitted their Right-of-Entry forms. The actual removal of debris from those properties will begin very soon. And, CalRecycle will continue to add debris removal teams as the number of program participants increases.

There is no cost to the property owner for this phase of the work, however residents will need to provide right-of-entry (ROE) forms, insurance information and other important paperwork to allow the clean up their property. It is strongly suggested that residents sign up for this service as soon as possible and submit the proper paperwork to facilitate the safe removal of the debris and ash by CalRecycle.

The final deadline to submit the paperwork is January 22, 2018. Copies of the ROE and other forms are available at www.venturacountyrecovers.org and the informational meetings. CalRecycle has opened an Operations Center at 290 Maple Court, Suite 120 in Ventura. Forms and information will be available there as well as the Hall of Administration at the County Government Center and Ventura City Hall.

Informational meetings regarding fire debris removal Jan. 4 and Jan. 6

Informational meetings have been set for residents affected by the Thomas Fire who are seeking debris removal services from CalRecycle for severely damaged/ or destroyed property.  Two meetings will be held in Ventura. Meetings will also be held in Ojai and Santa Paula. Fire victims are invited to attend whichever meeting is the most convenient as the information presented will be identical at each meeting.

The first meeting in Ventura will be held on Thursday, January 4 at 6pm, and the second Ventura meeting will be held on Saturday, January 6, at 11am. The meetings will take place at Ventura Baptist Church, 5415 Ralston Street, Ventura. Times, dates and locations for the other meetings will be released as soon as possible.

During the meetings, residents will hear information from the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) and the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) about the second phase of the debris removal. After the presentation, representatives from CalRecycle and CalOES will be available for breakout sessions with residents to answer individual questions.

Participation in the Phase II clean-up process has been approved by both the Ventura City Council and the County Board of Supervisors. During Phase II, teams from CalRecycle will remove the remaining debris (including building foundations) from properties with destroyed residential structures.

 There is no cost to the property owner for this phase of the work, however residents will need to provide right-of-entry (ROE) forms, insurance information and other important paperwork to allow the clean up their property.

 It is strongly suggested that residents sign up for this service as soon as possible and submit the property paperwork to facilitate the safe removal of the debris and ash by CalRecycle. The final deadline to submit the paperwork is January 22, 2018. Copies of the ROE and other forms are available at www.venturacountyrecovers.org and the informational meetings. CalRecycle anticipates opening an Operations Center at 290 Maple Court, Suite 120 in Ventura on Tuesday, January 9. Forms and information will be available there as well as the Hall of Administration at the County Government Center and Ventura City Hall.

Assistance Center closed its doors but help is still available

After serving for two weeks as a one-stop center for fire recovery information and assistance, the Local Assistance Center that was jointly run by the County and the City of Ventura closed its doors on Saturday, Dec. 23. Residents still seeking services may obtain services at existing local County and City offices.

The County of Ventura and the City of Ventura opened the Center on Dec. 13 at the Poinsettia Pavilion i to assist residents from all areas affected by the Thomas Fire. It has been staffed by a wide array of County, City, State and Federal agencies, as well as a number of non-profit organizations.

Residents have used the Assistance Center to start their recovery from the fire. Information was available on debris removal, permits, housing, rental assistance, vital records, property assessments, public assistance, crisis intervention and stress management, and even services such as replacing driver’s licenses. Health care resources were also available on site to provide assistance, education, and connections to other health services in the community.

“The assistance center provided a very useful service as the County and the City and our partners responded to the substantial needs of our community and those most directly affected. Those that still need help can contact us at City Hall or come to City Hall where we have a fire related service counter established”, said Dan Paranick, Assistant Ventura City Manager.

To further aid fire victims, Ventura County Recovers (venturacountyrecovers.org) continues to offer a registration feature that allows residents to register their contact information to receive information on specific topics. They can also register the address of their damaged or destroyed property so that officials can proactively provide them with information and official notices related to the rebuilding process.

Workshop on renters’ rights at Ventura County Government Center Dec. 27 at 4pm

On Wednesday, December 27, the County of Ventura, in partnership with the City of Ventura, is hosting an informational workshop to help renters understand their rights.  The workshop will provide information covering a wide variety of topics including: tenant rights and responsibilities; landlord rights and responsibilities; unexpected rent increases and price gouging; and affects to lease agreements if a housing unit was destroyed or is uninhabitable due to the Thomas Fire.

Several reports of price gouging, sudden eviction of existing tenants, landlord refusal to clean smoke and ash in units not directly damaged by the fire, and imposing illegal restrictions on new rentals have been received. This workshop will address these and other issues and provide an opportunity to ask questions from experts to help protect our residents from unscrupulous activity.

 The workshop will be held Wednesday, December 27, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Ventura County Government Center, Hall of Administration, Lower Plaza Assembly Room (LPAR), located at 800 South Victoria Avenue, Ventura, CA 93009.  The workshop is presented in partnership with the California Rural Legal Assistance, Jewish Family Services, CAUSE, the Housing Rights Center, and Many Mansions.

 For questions, please contact Tracy McAulay, County of Ventura, at 805-662-6792. Additional information about fire recovery efforts can be found at www.VenturaCountyRecovers.org.

Local Assistance Center in Ventura closing Saturday, Dec. 23

After serving for two weeks as a one-stop center for fire recovery information and assistance, the Local Assistance Center that was jointly run by the County and the City of Ventura will close its doors on Saturday, Dec. 23, at 5 p.m. Residents still seeking services are encouraged to visit the Center by Saturday, or may obtain services after Saturday at existing local County and City offices.

The County of Ventura and the City of Ventura opened the Center on Dec. 13 at the Poinsettia Pavilion in Ventura to assist residents from all areas affected by the Thomas Fire. It has been staffed by a wide array of County, City, State and Federal agencies, as well as a number of non-profit organizations.

“The Local Assistance Center, which has helped 1,968 households to date, has served as a great example of how County and City government can work together to aid our residents across jurisdictions,” said County Executive Officer Mike Powers.

Residents have used the Local Assistance Center to start their recovery from the fire. Information is available on debris removal, permits, housing, rental assistance, vital records, property assessments, public assistance, crisis intervention and stress management, and even services such as replacing driver’s licenses. Health care resources are available on site to provide assistance, education, and connections to other health services in the community.

 “The assistance center provided a very useful service as the County and the City and our partners responded to the substantial needs of our community and those most directly affected.   While the use of the center has decreased significantly over the last few days, the City will continue to offer a full array of direct services and assistance to folks at City Hall.  Those that still need help can contact us at City Hall or come to City Hall where we have a fire related service counter established”, said Dan Paranick, Assistant Ventura City Manager.

The Local Assistance Center will remain open on Thursday, December 21st and Friday, December 22nd 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Saturday, December 23rd, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The County has also opened Recovery Information Center trailers in Ojai and Santa Paula which will operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Friday, Dec. 22.  These two locations offer debris removal and permitting information, public assistance and housing/rental assistance, and connections to Health education, resources and counseling.

“We can continue to serve people effectively and efficiently through our regular channels,” said Barry Zimmerman, Director of the County Human Services Agency, which oversees the Center.   Contact information for agencies that have been present at the Local Assistance Center is attached.

To further aid fire victims, Ventura County Recovers (venturacountyrecovers.org) continues to offer a registration feature that allows residents to register their contact information to receive information on specific topics. They can also register the address of their damaged or destroyed property so that officials can proactively provide them with information and official notices related to the rebuilding process.

United Way Thomas Fire Fund

In response to an outpouring of support, United Way of Santa Barbara County is joining forces with United Way of Ventura County with a joint fund to directly support those individuals and families affected by the fire in both Counties—The United Way Thomas Fire Fund.

Local community partners have determined that the United Way organizations, in both counties, are uniquely positioned and qualified to manage the disaster fund, accept contributions, make distributions, promote the fund and provide a report to the community on how the funds were used. After the wildfire is contained, a committee of representatives from community- and faith-based organizations will be convened to assess needs and allocate money from the fund in Ventura. In Santa Barbara County, United Way of Santa Barbara County will coordinate with local partners such as the Santa Barbara Foundation and the Santa Barbara County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (SBC VOAD) to determine the most appropriate SBC VOAD member organizations and individuals to receive funding, based on the direct need of those affected. United Way of Santa Barbara County may also work to address additional support for individual victims if the wildfire emergency expands into more populated areas.

“The financial and emotional costs of the loss of homes and businesses in Ventura County, including Ojai, is immense and difficult to comprehend,” said Eric Harrison, CEO, United Way of Ventura County. “We will do all we can to ensure a solid path to recovery for our residents.”

To date, $2.25 million has been raised.

Both organizations will utilize the Ventura County systems of donating to the Fund that have already been established. One-hundred percent of the donations will support those in communities affected by the wildfires. Donations can be made by texting UWVC to 41444, online at www.unitedwaythomasfirefund.org, www.unitedwaysb.org or www.vcunitedway.org or by calling 485-6288. Checks may be sent to the United Way office at 702 County Square Drive, Suite 100, Ventura, CA 93003. Please write “Thomas Fire Fund” in the memo.

Ventura County Community Foundation gives $477,000 to support those affected by fires

The Ventura County Community Foundation awarded a total of $477,000 to two vital service providers providing immediate relief efforts to those impacted by the Thomas Fire–the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. The grants awarded to these organizations will help fund their overall relief efforts including staffing of disaster shelters and the provision of food, supplies and other resources.

In addition, VCCF launched three new funds to support on-going recovery and support for those affected by Ventura County fires. Two of the funds are seeded by VCCF and are currently accepting community contributions. The third fund was created by the local district of Rotary International and has generated thousands of dollars in donations from Rotarians within the first few hours of launching.

VCCF’s Sudden and Urgent Needs (SUN) fund was established to provide a quick funding response in order to avoid the loss of critical safety net services. The fund has gone to work immediately, funding a power generator for Interface Children and Family Services, to operate the 211 community services hotline during power outages.

VCCF’s Community Disaster Relief Fund has been seeded with $200,000 by VCCF to provide funds for long-term relief and rebuilding efforts. Both funds are currently accepting community contributions through the VCCF website, www.vccf.org.

“Based on the experience of other communities that have experienced a disaster, donations come in fast initially with approximately 73 percent of those funds being used to provide immediate support during a disaster. Unfortunately, full recovery efforts may take from 5 to 10 years.”, said Vanessa Bechtel, president and CEO of the VCCF.

The donor-advised fund set up by the regional district of Rotary International. though VCCF provides Rotarians a means of contributing to support relief efforts. Rotary leadership will provide guidance on how the funds will be utilized and which relief efforts are funded.

In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, the immediate relief needs are clear—shelter, food, cash, and other basic needs. Recovery and rebuilding are more complex and depend on each community’s needs. In other communities, recovery efforts have included basic needs as well as longer term economic, health and social service support, he said.

Contributions can be made by mailing a check, contributing online, or making a gift of stock or wire transfer. For details, visit www.vccf.org.

The foundation was established in 1987 and endeavors to build philanthropy in the region and to give generously for the well-being of all in Ventura County. VCCF invests in the future through scholarships, grant making and collaborative partnerships. For more information or to donate, visit www.vccf.org.

City responds to fire crisis

by Burris DeBenning

As the City enters the recovery phase of fire operations, resident concerns, questions and needs are being answered and assessed and priorities ranked. At the December 11 City Council meeting, leadership personnel from various agencies provided status reports, and the City Manager introduced the team, headed by the Assistant City Manager, Dan Paranick, that would be responsible for the totality of the clean-up and recovery stages of the fire.

Police Chief Ken Corney said that everything is being done to get people who were in mandatory evacuation zones back into their neighborhoods, but that critical safety issues, like the danger of open gas lines and downed transmission wires, remain a hindrance.

Police personnel are also contending with an uptick in crime as there have been multiple reports of looting and burglaries that seem to be in response to the evacuations. Augmenting City police in their efforts to keep the peace has been the California National Guard.

Councilmember Chery Heitmann asked Chief Corney for a timetable on when people can get back to their homes to collect valuable and mementos, and the chief estimated about two weeks, due to the extensive utility work being performed by the Southern California Gas Company and Southern California Edison.

Councilmember Jim Monahan asked Mr. Paranick why the gas company had to dig large holes in certain streets to shut off gas lines rather than turn them off at the home.

Water has been a major concern and Kevin Brown, Ventura Water General Manager, answered council questions regarding drinking and use safety and the condition of the city’s water system. While mandatory water boiling is no longer required, Brown stressed that the fire overwhelmed the City’s complex web of pipes, valves and tanks, as equipment was either destroyed or taxed by rapidly falling pressure when the fire moved through town. Brown said that the fire caused the system to drain ten times its normal draw rate. Once conditions were safer, Water Department crews were able to add chlorine for purification and visit damaged infrastructure to make repairs.

Councilmember Christy Weir asked Mr. Paranick’s team what responsibilities will homeowners have during the clean-up and rebuilding in conjunction with what the State can offer. According to County and OES(The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services) officials, the objective is to get people back onto their properties and connect residents with state assistance as quickly as possible, but that hazardous waste and unstable debris must be removed first.

The plan to expedite this timetable is to work with residents as a whole rather than individually, and thus be able to tackle many sites at once. Deputy Director William Stratton of the County’s Environmental Health Division emphasized that the largest concern right now is the toxicity of the ash and burned debris that may be caused by heavy metals and asbestos.

Residents brought up concerns over how the smoky and ash-laden air might affect children when school is back in session, and what has happened to the drilling, transportation and storage infrastructures of the many oil sites throughout and near the City. As the rainy season approaches, residents and council voiced concerns about the efforts needed to keep storm drains open and reduce the potential for vast mud flows from the denuded hills.

State OES will have a watershed task force, comprised of hydrologists and other experts, in place to resolve possible mudslide issues. As a welcome relief to homeowners, County Tax Assessor Steve Hintz said that people who lost their homes and first responders who call his office and ask can have their property tax penalties and fees waived.

One councilmember asked if there was a central website that will handle all fire communications, and what efforts were being taken to use social media to the fullest extent possible. Mr. Paranick responded that the most valuable central website is VenturaRecovery.org, and that his public information team will work diligently with local news organizations and social media sites to assure consistent and well-informed communications.

Finally, the question was asked, “how can I help?” Councilmembers Cheryl Heitmann and Christy Weir concurred that supplies of clothing and other “hard” goods have been met, but the best thing folks can do is patronize local businesses, like buying holiday gift certificates and air purifiers, and remember that members of the Ventura business community and the Downtown Ventura Partners (DVP) lost homes too.