Category Archives: Fire Main

VCAAA’s Homeshare Program seeks to assist residents affected by Thomas Fire

The Ventura County Area Agency on Aging’s Homeshare Program is actively seeking local homeowners who are interested in assisting families and individuals displaced by the Thomas Fire. Homeowners in the Ventura area who have vacant bedrooms or homes to rent under short-term agreements are encouraged to apply. The VCAAA and Homeshare are an entity of the County of Ventura.

On Monday, Dec. 4th, the Thomas Fire began to ravish through west Ventura County, forcing thousands from their homes, and burning more than 500 structures in its path. Many of the families affected by the fire are seeking short-term housing options as they work through the process of rebuilding or finding permanent housing.

Homeshare, which traditionally works to match homeowners wishing to rent rooms with home-seekers looking for affordable housing, has temporarily shifted its focus to assist those displaced by the Thomas Fire, and is asking for special consideration for full families who may also have pets.

Homeowners and those seeking residence will be asked to comply with program requirements, which include an application process and background check, however the process will be fast-tracked in an effort to secure short-term housing options for those most affected by the fires.

Homeowners interested in participating in the program must have one or more vacant bedrooms available to rent, or a full home available to rent. For more information, or to apply to become a Homeshare Provider, please call 477-7324 or visit www.vcaaa.org. Please also follow the VCAAA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for regular updates related to Homeshare and other VCAAA programs.

The Ventura County Area Agency on Aging, an agency of the County of Ventura, is the principal agency in Ventura County charged with the responsibility to promote the development and implementation of a comprehensive coordinated system of care that enables older individuals and their caregivers to live in a community-based setting and to advocate for the needs of those 60 years of age and older in the county, providing leadership and promoting citizen involvement in the planning process as well as in the delivery of services.

Southern California Edison (SCE) crews working around the clock

Southern California Edison (SCE) crews are working around the clock to restore service for Ventura residents. The City of Ventura has provided an area at the Community Park for SCE to use as their staging area for equipment. Progress of their work will be determined by weather conditions, terrain and the movement of the fire. 367 damaged poles need to be replaced. Restoring the transmission system or rerouting power from unaffected areas to impacted customers is a top priority.

Thousands of acres of wildlife habitat were also lost

by David Goldstein, Ventura County Public Works Agency, IWMD

Residents eager to return to a normal life following the fires may be tempted to begin cleanup immediately. Instead, additional preparation can save money and reduce risks.

In declaring a local health emergency the Ventura County Board of Supervisors enabled state agencies to launch a program providing free testing of disaster debris and free property clean-up if homes were completely destroyed by the Thomas Fire. Even if your home was not built with asbestos or originally painted with lead-based paint, substances from a wide variety of other building materials may make your ash a hazardous substance.

Consequently, countywide, fire debris can be legally removed only after an inspection by state designated personnel and, most likely, a County approved debris clean-up plan. Details of this program are still being developed and will be posted at venturacountyrecovers.org. Information is also available at 981-5101.
In addition to the many homes lost in recent fires, thousands of acres of wildlife habitat were also lost.

Fortunate people have insurance policies and public agencies to help with rebuilding, but it will take years before vegetation grows back to sustain eco-systems. The web of life on wild lands, from plants and insects, to birds and bobcats, will strain to cope with new circumstances.

One way people can help is to switch away from toxic substances and to mechanical and exclusion methods of rodent control. Following a fire, fleeing mice and rats tend to infest new areas. If homeowners near burn areas react to rodent problems by using poison, they risk posing new dangers to wildlife. Anti-coagulants kill mice and rats through internal bleeding, but poisoned pests take a long time to die, and in the meantime, they often become food for wildlife ranging from mountain lions to birds of prey, potentially spreading the poison up the food chain.

Methods of pest control designed to avoid infestations in the first place are categorized as “exclusion” methods, which include sealing off potential home entry points with wire mesh. Trim trees overhanging your roof and avoid dense growth capable of sheltering rats. Keep pet food secured and clean up pet dropping promptly.

Mechanical methods of pest control range from simple, classic snap traps to newer traps using electric shocks to kill pests. Some people mistake plastic bait traps for a mechanical trap, but generally, the large, plastic boxes with holes for rodents to crawl into are bait stations. The rodents do not die inside. Instead, they leave after consuming poison, potentially becoming prey for animals not targeted for poison.

If your mechanical traps are not catching rodents, rather than switching to poison, consider optimizing the traps. Set traps in pairs along a wall with the trip pads pointing in opposite directions, and use a proven effective bait, such as peanut butter. Also, since mice nibbles do not always trigger traps meant for rats, use both sized traps if you are not sure which type of infestation is in your home.

County working on plans for property tax relief for fire victims

The offices of the Treasurer-Tax Collector, Assessor and Auditor-Controller are working on a plan to streamline the application process for property tax relief due to damage caused by the Thomas Fire.

In some cases, penalties and fees on late payments will be waived for fire victims, but taxpayers are still encouraged to make full payments on their first installment. The County will adjust the tax bill on a future installment. Tax relief will be available for any type of property that is assessed by the County, including but not limited to, homes, commercial and industrial buildings, and mobile homes.

More information will be released on tax relief as the plan is developed. Fire victims can get a head start on the process by filing a calamity claim. Information and a claim form can be found on the Assessor’s website at htpp://assessor.countyofventura.org.

To learn more:
Steven Hintz, Treasurer-Tax Collector, (805) 654-3744
http://www.ventura.org/ttc

Dan Goodwin, Assessor, (805) 654-2181
htpp://assessor.countyofventura.org

Jeff Burgh, Auditor-Controller, (805) 654-3152
http://www.ventura.org/auditor-controller

Immigration help available to those affected by wildfires

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reminds the public that they offer immigration services that may help people affected by unforeseen circumstances such as natural disasters.

The following measures may be available on a case-by-case basis upon request:

  • Changing a nonimmigrant status or extending a nonimmigrant stay for an individual currently in the United States. Failure to apply for the extension or change before expiration of your authorized period of admission may be excused if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control;
  • Re-parole of individuals previously granted parole by USCIS;
  • Expedited processing of advance parole requests;
  • Expedited adjudication of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship;
  • Expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications, where appropriate;
  • Consideration of fee waivers due to an inability to pay;
  • Assistance for those who received a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny but were unable to submit evidence or otherwise respond in a timely manner;
  • Assistance if you were unable to appear for a scheduled interview with USCIS;
  • Expedited replacement of lost or damaged immigration or travel documents issued by USCIS, such as a
  • Permanent Resident Card (Green Card); and
  • Rescheduling a biometrics appointment.

To learn how to request these measures, call the National Customer Service Center at 800-375-5283. For customers with disabilities: (TTY) 800-767-1833, (VRS) 877-709-5797, or (VCO) 877-709-5801.

Insurance protection for all Californians

Top Ten Tips for Wildfire Claimants

1. Obtain a complete copy of your residential insurance policy, including your declarations page.

The law requires your insurance company to provide this to you free of charge within 30 days of
your request. Ask your agent or insurer representative to explain your relevant coverages.

2. Take note of your Additional Living Expense (ALE) limits and manage your ALE expenses in
recognition of a long rebuilding process.

3. Track all of your additional expenses that arise from having to live in another location away from
your home.

4. Document all of your conversations with your insurer/adjuster about your claim and policy
limitations. Ask the adjuster to point out the specific provision in the policy being cited.

5. Get at least one licensed contractor’s estimate or bid on the cost to rebuild your home just to get
a reasonable sense of the actual cost as compared to your coverage limits (for more
considerations on contractors, view the CDI’s electronic brochure Don’t Get Burned After a
Disaster and check the website for California’s Contractors State License Board.

6. Call the Department of Insurance Hotline for help at (800) 927-4357. Consider insights from
consumer advocates.

7. Understand you can purchase at another location, and still receive full replacement cost

benefits. You also have the right to rebuild using your own contractor. In order to reduce the cost
of rebuilding, you might also consider a community wide development.

8. Assess your situation, do not rush into any decision about contractors, lawyers or public
adjustors – consider your mortgage/employment/financial situation, your age, children’s schools,
your willingness to deal with construction issues (no matter who your contractor is). Of course,
move forward if you have obtained multiple bids from reputable licensed contractors, are certain
you want to rebuild, are sure of the rebuilding costs and your insurance limits and want to be
sure you are a priority for your selected contractor to start the rebuild. The Contractors State
License Board (CSLB) has publications that can help you identify and avoid problems before
they occur. Contact CSLB at 1-800-321-2752 to obtain a free copy of their publications and/or
verify the licensing status of a contractor.

9. Do not assume you have inadequate coverage based on general information you are hearing
about building costs or other general comments. The adequacy of your limits needs to be
addressed on a case specific basis to determine how much it will cost to rebuild your home
and whether your limits, including extended replacement cost coverage if applicable, are
adequate.

10. Evaluate whether you will need a public adjustor or attorney to help you with your claim. Note
that for long rebuilding processes you are likely to use your entire ALE limits and if you are also
reimbursed by your insurer for your entire personal property loss or your full personal property
limits, then there may be no need for the assistance of a public adjustor or lawyer to help you
obtain full settlements for either of these coverages.

Public adjusters require a percentage of the claim settlement for their services. Make sure you
understand what they charge and the services you are paying for before you sign a contract.
Also, a public adjuster cannot charge a fee for payments already received from the insurance
company, so you should consider getting as much advance payment as possible from the
insurance company (without signing a final release) before hiring a public adjuster. This way the
fee may only be charged for the additional moneys the public adjuster gets for you, Public
adjusters are required to be licensed by the California Department of Insurance. To verify a
public adjuster’s license, call us at 1-800-927-4357 or check the status online by name or by
license number. Practicing without a license is against the law.

Erosion and ash control product applied to burn areas

The Public Works Department has hired Galion Erosion Control to spray EarthGuard onto residences and other areas burned by the Thomas Fire. The application is a public service to help keep hazardous material from getting into the storm drains by keeping it in place and preventing it from going onto other properties, as well as preventing the material from becoming airborne.

The product will not impact sifting of personal materials and will not affect the ability to seed properties. EarthGuard is a non-hazardous, non-toxic product and will not cause any issues with the watershed or the replanting or re-growing of plants. It is used on construction projects throughout the nation for dust control. The product is mixed with fiber and is green in color in order to show where it has been applied. The application of EarthGuard began on December 12 in the homes where hazardous material burned.

The spraying began in the Clearpoint neighborhood and will proceed to Ondulando east, Ondulando west, Skyline, Hidden Valley and continue west. Other areas to be applied with EarthGuard include water facilities and parks citywide that were impacted by the Thomas Fire. The spraying of EarthGuard is slated for the next few weeks.

City of Ventura offers parcel record packets to fire victims

City of Ventura residents whose property was damaged or destroyed by the Thomas Fire will be able to pick up a parcel record packet for their property. The City of Ventura Community Development Department has compiled all records for parcels with homes or structures that were damaged or destroyed. This information may assist homeowners with filing insurance claims and beginning the rebuild process.

Packets will include:

  • Building Permit Records
  • Including historic building permits and/or planning permits
  • (Please note that packets will not include copyrighted plans or calculations/reports.)
  • Property Zoning Information
  • Subdivision Tract Information, if applicable.

Property owners (with identification) may pick up their individualized packet at Ventura City Hall located at 501 Poli Street, Ventura during City Hall business hours in room 124 (lower level, West wing). Residents may also request an electronic version of the parcel packet by emailing their request to CDTR@cityofventura.ca.gov. The City of Ventura is committed to supporting the recovery and rebuilding process for property owners.

Free masks are available

N-95 masks require a tight seal to be effective.

Due to continuing unhealthy air conditions resulting from the Thomas Fire, free particulate respirators (N-95 masks) are being distributed as part of a coordinated effort of the Ventura County Public Health Department, Emergency Medical Services Agency, various County agencies, City government and multiple community based organizations. To date, over 500,000 masks have been distributed throughout Ventura County. The sites that will distribute masks are available and update routinely on readyventuracounty.org and current locations are listed below.

  • Ventura County Fair – Red Cross Shelter, 10 W. Harbor Blvd
  • EP Foster Library, 651 E. Main St. Ventura
  • Beth Torah Temple, 7620 Foothill Road
  • Barranca Vista Center, 7050 Ralston Street
  • Museum of Ventura County, 100 E. Main Street
  • Hill Road Library, 1070 S. Hill Road
  • Saticoy Library, 1292 Los Angeles Avenue
  • San Jon Yard, 336 San Jon Road
  • City Hall, 501 Poli St. (entrance at back parking lot)
  • Academic Family Medicine Center, 3291 Loma Vista Road, Building 340, Suite 201
  • West Ventura Medical Clinic, 133 W Santa Clara St
  • Ventura County Health Care Agency, 5851 Thille St
  • Ventura County Health Care Agency, 2323 Knoll Dr # 414

Please note that the N-95 masks require a tight seal to be effective and as a result the available adult sized masks will provide only limited protection for most children. N-95 masks when fitted properly provide some protection from the fine particles in smoke. Ordinary dust masks and surgical masks do not provide this protection. Limited quantities of small masks are being distributed to locations that are more likely to have a concentration of children. When properly worn, these masks should provide a tighter seal for a child’s smaller face. Please note, that only limited quantities of these masks are available. Masks are distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis and will be available as supplies last.

Declaration of local health emergency

On December 8, due to potential widespread toxic exposures and threats to public health and the environment that exist in the aftermath of a major wildfire disaster, the Ventura County Public Health Officer declared a Local Health Emergency to limit the public’s exposure to hazardous substances.

This Declaration enables the State Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to survey damaged properties and remove household hazardous wastes at no cost to property owners. It also enables property owners to participate in a voluntary Fire Debris Clearance program administered through the State Office of Emergency Services (OES) and CalRecycle.

The Declaration applies in the incorporated and unincorporated areas of Ventura County impacted by the Thomas Fire and provides the following:

  1. No removal of fire debris shall occur from properties without a hazardous material inspection conducted by either the EPA or DTSC. This does not include the removal of personal property from residential sites.
  2. No debris bins shall be provided to property owners for the purposes of fire debris removal without the authorization of the Ventura County Environmental Health Division.
  3. Property owners that opt out of the Fire Debris Clearance Program must obtain permission from the Ventura County Environmental Health Division before beginning the removal of fire debris to ensure the private debris removal, transport, and disposal is conducted in a manner that does not endanger the community.

The public is advised that the combustion of building materials such as siding, roofing tiles, and insulation can create dangerous ash and dust particles that may contain asbestos, heavy metals, and other hazardous substances. Household hazardous substances such as paint, gasoline, cleaning products, pesticides, compressed gas

cylinders, and chemicals may have been stored in homes, garages, or sheds that may have burned or released in the fire, also producing hazardous substances. Exposure to these substances when residents search through debris for personal items, and during fire debris removal activities may lead to acute and chronic health effects, and may cause long-term public health and environmental impacts.

The County Environmental Health Division is currently working with the DTSC to gather more information about the state program and the timing of its operation in Ventura County. As information is gathered, it will be posted along with other recovery

information on the County’s venturacountyrecovers.org web site. In addition, if property owners with fire debris on their property would like to receive debris removal information directly as it becomes available, they may register via the venturacountyrecovers.org web site.