by Deputy Mayor Matt LaVere
It is hard to believe that one year has passed since the Thomas Fire devastated our community. As I reflect on this difficult year, I am reminded of the overwhelming kindness and generosity I witnessed in response to this horrible disaster. I am also reminded of the intense community spirit that arose in many of us and which bolstered our resolve to rebuild. However, in recent days, given the heartbreaking news from last month’s Camp and Woolsey fires (where over 90 people lost their lives and 196 people are still missing), I am reminded of something else: the absolute heroics of Ventura’s first responders.
What started as a small brush fire in Santa Paula last December 4th quickly grew into a raging inferno barreling towards Ventura at speeds more than a football field-per-second. In the late evening hours, at a time when many Venturans were already asleep, the entire city then lost power just as we were learning about the nightmare heading our way. Against this backdrop, the men and women of Ventura’s police department and fire department jumped into action.
Under the cover of darkness our first responders raced to neighborhoods across the entire City to begin evacuations, from the Westside to Clearpoint, and every impacted neighborhood in between. Often battling intense heat, flames and smoke, our first responders that night evacuated over 27,000 Venturans (nearly a quarter of our City’s residents!) without the loss of a single life. As we learn more about the tragic loss of lives in other fire-ravaged communities, one can only conclude that what Ventura’s first responders accomplished on December 4, 2017 was nothing short of a miracle.
The term “hero” should not be used lightly. But given the dire circumstances they faced and the fact that they risked their lives to successfully save so many of ours, it is important that we remember Ventura’s first responders on the one-year anniversary of the Thomas Fire and recognize them as the true heroes they are!