by Kat Merrick
A year ago today Chris and I walked the ranch checking irrigation lines and playing with the pups as we did almost everyday… As I stood on the hill looking at the amazing views, to my left the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands and to my right Ojai. I remember so clearly saying a prayer of thanks for being allowed to be in this very special place. Several hours later as I was finishing packing for my trip and double checking the last minute details I received a text from my dear friend Christine Law saying her house was on fire and she was evacuating.
I immediately started texting her and friends in Santa Paula to see if they were safe and to offer refuge ” Come to the ranch, bring the animals… we are here for you”
We could never imagined that in a short matter of time and in the early hours of Dec 5th the Thomas Fire would come barreling straight at us taking everything we owned and cherished in the world.
No words can express the emotion of watching your life burn before you. to knowing hundreds of friends and Ventura County neighbors were suffering the same fate. I have learned that there really are no words to comfort and that the best thing one can do is simply I am very sorry for your loss and work to help when needed.
Our reality of recovery looks like this.
4 moves over the past 8 months and finally feeling the need to take control and move in the 5th wheel on the property.
3 to 7 Years for the trees to be replanted and producing again
6 months to even getting the modular home on site to live in.
Massive loss of rental income for at least another year or two
Stepping foot in our rebuilt home at least 2 years.
The process that the county (County on permits City on water) said is expedite does not seem to be the case for ranchers and farmers. We have been sitting in Fire Dept review for about a month, All our old site plans must be redone (even though the homes are going with where they were and are the same sizes).
All the needed contractors for soil testing, site plans and more are backed up for months, prices have jumped and answers from them are slow at best.
The rebuild process has almost been as hard on us as the loss.
For me the only thing that has helped is to help. It is one of the gifts that came from all of this.