Ribbon cutting for first two homes rebuilt after the Thomas Fire

by Richard Lieberman

Ed and Sandy Fuller celebrated the completion of their home rebuild after the Thomas fire devastated their neighborhood and reduced their beloved home to ashes. A ribbon-cutting ceremony by Ventura city officials was held in front of the new home and another across the street at the newly completed residence of Michael and Sandra Gustafson who also lost their home to the Thomas Fire.

Newly appointed Mayor Matt LaVere spoke during the event, recalled watching the devastation and wondering how the city could ever recover from the catastrophic event that leveled over 500 homes in Ventura. LaVere said ”But we sat down that next week and we were talking about the idea of Ventura strong and the amazing strength and resiliency of this community. We said our number one priority in 2018 has to get homes rebuilt and back into their homes. And here we are one year later, celebrating the first two homeowners who have rebuilt and are moving back into their homes and I think that is a momentous occasion.”

Ed Fuller is an avid singer and was at a rehearsal for his barbershop quartet in Camarillo when news of the spreading Thomas Fire reached him. Fuller raced back to his Ventura home, but like 500 other Ventura families, his home would be destroyed.

On the morning of the ribbon cutting ceremony, Ed and his barbershop quartet performed for the gathered guests and city officials. Views of the Channel Islands and the hillsides visible from the rebuilt home added to the jubilant mood. A little over a year ago there was nothing but a scorched and debris filled lot. Today they would be finally moving into their rebuilt home.

Sandy Fuller was excited, “All I can say is I am so excited,” She said as she hugged each guest entering the home to tour the newly built structure. “Last year was so sad,” she added.

Jeff Lambert, Community Development Director for the city in remarks to the gathered crowd said: “It’s been a long year since the biggest fire in modern history hit the city.”

The numbers tell part of the rebuilding story:

  • 165 building permits issued, meaning construction can start.
  • 410 Permits issued for repairs
  • 106 plans in a review, which usually means a building permit isn’t far behind
  • 289 Zoning clearances issued
  • 483 appointments with property owners and architects

“It’s pretty exciting to see this much activity,” Lambert added, “The Clearpoint neighborhood has the beginnings of several other homes, poles up, foundations set, fences erected around lots.” He said.

Lambert added “In recent weeks, in addition to helping homeowners rebuild he has also been giving information to other cities now going through a similar process. The Hill and Woolsey fires in East Ventura County, and Los Angeles County destroyed more than 1,000 homes,”

Lambert said “Ventura learned from Santa Rosa,” and now he and others are passing along what they have learned to Calabasas, Thousand Oaks and Malibu.

Across the street from the Fullers Michael and Sandra Gustafson also held a ribbon cutting where the same crowd of well-wishers and city officials assembled.

“It feels so good,” Sandra said. “It’s good to have Sandy and Ed as neighbors because I think we were trying to keep up with them,” she added.

“I feel elated it has been a long year a rough road,” said Michael Gustafson just after cutting the red ribbon to his newly rebuilt home. “You know it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be,” added Gustafson. “The city was excellent, they really helped out the city did what they told us they would do,”

“We poured the foundation on the second of July, so it’s been five or six months and were done,” he said. “Our insurance was excellent we didn’t have any problems at all, they were just excellent,” added Gustavson.

The first two homes in Ventura have been completed and ready to move into. A true milestone has been reached in the efforts of Venturan’s to recover from the devastation, sadness and human tragedy that was the Thomas fire.

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