Category Archives: Fire Main

ThomasFireHelp expands to help survivors of fire

As the reports of the June 6th Holiday Fire surfaced, the team was already hard at work to connect those in need to those who had help to give. Within hours of the fire’s start, the ThomasFireHelp team had expanded the platform once designed to meet the needs for the Thomas Fire and Montecito Mudslide survivors to now serve the needs of our Goleta neighbors.

Since the Thomas Fire and Montecito Mudslide, ThomasFireHelp has continued to be a key leader in long term recovery efforts in the region. In an effort to expand their capacity to support and advocate for survivors, ThomasFireHelp has enriched their community partnerships and their recovery network now includes faith-based and service organizations. With these vital community collaborations in place, ThomasFireHelp was able to quickly deploy their innovative platform to assist residents affected by the Holiday Fire.

To date, ThomasFireHelp has had over 22,000 page views on and saw posts on the ThomasFireHelp Facebook page reach 11,000 and nearly 13,000 people on critical days after the Thomas Fire and Montecito Slide, respectively. ThomasFireHelp with the use of their online platform, social media outreach and community partnerships works on the grassroots level to match help with need, solving problems on a one-on-one scale and picking up those who fell through the cracks.

“ThomasFireHelp was born out of the immediate and desperate needs of people in the Ventura and Santa Barbara communities facing disasters of unprecedented scale and destruction. No one knew where to go or what to do, and everyone wanted to help. That was our simple beginning we became the ‘Craigslist’ of recovery, building a web-based platform connecting those in need with those who had resources to give”, stated Emily Barany, co-founder of ThomasFireHelp.

The site offers everything from supplies and housing to services and volunteers. Following the closure of the 101 Highway after the Montecito Slide, ThomasFireHelp organized the Montecito Airlift, which deployed 64 volunteer pilots to transport doctors and medical patients, all of whom urgently needed to get across the mud when the 101 was closed for nearly two weeks. 117 passengers were transported as far north as Palo Alto and as far south as San Diego.

“The Thomas Fire and Montecito Mudslide disasters have devastated our community and more than 6 months later, survivors are still trying to find the support they need to get back on their feet” said Peter Zierhut, Vice President of Haas Automation, a local employer with a history of community support. He continued, “For that reason, the Gene Haas Foundation is announcing a challenge grant of $25,000 to ThomasFireHelp, allowing them to continue their work of connecting those affected by the disasters with the services they need. We’re proud to be a part of the good work being done by this hard working organization. As new disasters strike, innovative models like ThomasFireHelp will be integral to the recovery of the region. ThomasFireHelp is poised to be international leader in recovery assistance and The Gene Haas Foundation is proud to be part of the effort.”

The grant ensures that, for every dollar raised from the community, the Gene Haas Foundation will match that amount, up to $25,000.

Hardship Assistance Applications for United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund available

United Way of Ventura County (UWVC) has approved $281,172 for individual hardship assistance from the United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund. This is part of the $1.5 million made available in the current round of assistance funding, with applications for those remaining funds open through April 30.

“Being able to get the funds in the hands of those who need it has been incredibly rewarding, and we’re so grateful to be working with our responsive partners to make the process as simple as possible,” said Eric Harrison, UWVC President & CEO. “We’re looking forward to hearing from more residents to continue dispersing these funds.”

Applications – offered in English and Spanish – and a list of partnering agencies where they can be submitted are available at

Before submitting an application, victims should gather any documentation to substantiate needs, such as rental agreements, campground rental fees, costs replace trade tools (could be prices from online or physical stores) or insurance invoices in preparation of speaking with a case manager.

Eligible applicants are Ventura County residents, and household income limits are determined by family size of 120% AMI or less.

The United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund has grown to more than $4 million. The next phase in disbursements will focus on long-term recovery. To contribute, visit

For more information about United Way of Ventura County, visit

Southern Californians Should Stay in Touch With FEMA

Southern California homeowners and renters who have registered for disaster assistance with FEMA following the December wildfires and January mudslides and flooding, are encouraged to stay in touch as their applications are processed.

Financial help for home repair, temporary rental assistance, personal property loss and other losses or damage not covered by insurance may be available to applicants in Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

Applicants can track their application and should notify FEMA of changes to their mailing address, phone number, email address or if they receive an insurance settlement. Any necessary documents can also be uploaded directly by going online to Applicants can also call the helpline at 800-621-3362; TTY 800-462-7585. Those who use 711 or Video Relay Service may call 800-621-3362. The toll-free numbers are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time seven days a week.

As of close of business March 27, 691 households have received more than $4.2 million in assistance from FEMA. The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved 381 loans for businesses, homeowners and renters for more than $40.4 million.

Significant efforts have been made with the removal of debris from basins and creeks in Santa Barbara County. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers removed 326,908 cubic yards of debris from 11 basins that provide protection to downstream neighborhoods and properties in Santa Barbara County. USACE is also assisting Santa Barbara County clear debris from nine creeks. Work is complete in eight of nine creeks, for a total of 47,306 cubic yards removed.

CalRecyle has been working in Ventura County to remove debris from private property and conduct soil sampling. So far CalRecyle is 71 percent complete with private property debris removal in Ventura County and expect to be complete by mid-April.

Debris removal is critical to reopening roadways and facilitating further recovery, but is also essential to helping communities prepare for increased flood risks that follow major fires for several years. All residents of Southern California who live near burned areas should be carefully monitor the weather and follow local emergency recommendations. Residents can increase their financial protection by buying insurance now. Click here for information on flood risks after fire, go to or visit California Department of Water Resources for more information.

For more additional updates on California recovery, visit the disaster web page at, Twitter at and

Applications for assistance still available

The application deadline for $1.5 million in assistance from the United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund for those impacted by the recent disasters has been extended to April 30.

The application for individual hardship assistance is available now at in English and Spanish. The United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund will support residents in expenses related to housing, livelihood/income and habitability of their homes.

Applicants can submit a completed form to one of the partnering agencies listed at to speak with a case manager. Victims should gather any documentation to substantiate needs, such as rental agreements, campground rental fees, costs replace trade tools (could be prices from online or physical stores) or insurance invoices.

Eligible applicants are Ventura County residents, and household income limits are determined by family size of 120% AMI or less.

The United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund has grown to more than $4 million. The next phase in disbursements will center on long-term recovery. To contribute, visit

Since 1945, United Way of Ventura County has advanced the common good by creating opportunities for a better life for all. Our focus is on education, income and health, because these are the building blocks for a good quality of life. We support local services and programs that are more than just ‘stop gap’ measures, but rather solutions that help create lasting change. We invite everyone to be part of the change by giving, advocating and volunteering. When we work together in common purpose, we LIVE UNITED. For more information about United Way of Ventura County, visit

Ventura Family YMCA gives to employees who lost homes

Dana is one of the staff who received $1,000.00.

At the YMCA Campaign Report Night on Feb. 23, four employees who lost their home from the Thomas Fire received $1000 from the Ventura Family YMCA. The $4000 was donated from San Francisco YMCA’s emergency relief fund.

Every year, the San Francisco Y donates to a fund to support YMCAs that have experienced disasters or have other dire needs. “When the Director of Human Resources heard about the fires in the Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, he gathered the team together and they determined, right away, that they wanted to support the work that Ventura YMCA was doing to help those impacted by the fire,” said Margo Byrne, Chief Operations Officer of the Channel Islands YMCA.

The Ventura Y has elected to keep the names of the four employees anonymous. At the report night, one of the employees shared her story about how the YMCA helped her during the Thomas Fire. The Y staff member explained that they didn’t take anything when they initially evacuated with her four children. “We were up to the left of Ventura High School so we weren’t that concerned.”

When her neighbors started evacuating, she and her family left to her father’s house. When they arrived, she asked her father to take her back to the house to pick up a few items. They returned to find her whole street on fire, and they left with nothing.

The morning after her house had burned down, Amy Bailey Jurewicz, Executive Director for the Ventura Family YMCA, was the first to check on her. The employee stated, “I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt if the Y had not offered the childcare that they did, I would not have made it through this.”

At the end of the night, Amber Stevens, Associate Executive Director at the Ventura Family YMCA, stated, “We have amazing staff here. It’s nice to be able to say we can help when we hear our staff is in trouble.” The Y also paid all of their employees for hours while the facility was closed during the fires.

Information about the Ventura Family YMCA, visit or call 642.2131.

Fire survivor’s Benefit Festival checks

Thank you for your incredible patience as we work on the distribution of the one-time Thomas Fire Benefit Festival checks. Each person/household will receive $750! We can confirm that the checks will be ready Friday, March 16.

There are three distribution centers:

Ventura Residents: Please come to the Downtown Ventura Partners offices at 420 East Santa Clara St. Come only on Friday, March 16 between 1pm-6pm. And on Wed., March 21 through Friday, March 23 from 1pm-6pm. If you cannot make these times, email [email protected] to discuss other arrangements.

Ojai Area Residents: Please go to Help of Ojai’s Community Assistance Program at 108 Fox Street, Oja between 9am-3pm on Friday, March 16. And again 9am-3pm on Monday, March 19 through Wednesday, March 21. Help of Ojai is graciously volunteering to be a pick-up location. Please do not call their office or go to their main offices. If you cannot make these times, please email [email protected] to discuss other arrangements.

Santa Paula/Fillmore Residents: We are finalizing a pick-up location. We have your email addresses and we will be communicating directly with you to provide the location and times.

To collect your check, you must present a form of ID and FEMA paperwork, or (if you don’t have FEMA papers) a utility bill or documents that describe your loss and a valid ID linking yourself to the affected property. Please do not email these documents. Just bring them when you pick up your check.

We appreciate your patience throughout this process! We truly hope this money will help soften the incredible blow you have endured. These funds are to address any unmet needs beyond any insurance payouts or disaster assistance you have received. #VenturaCountyStrong!

The Thomas Fire Benefit Team

A few days left to register for disaster assistance

Southern California residents recovering from the December wildfires and January mudslides and flooding have until March 16 to register for federal disaster assistance .

Individuals and families who were living in Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and suffered damage or losses from the fires and mudslides are encouraged to register for assistance.

After applying for disaster assistance with FEMA, they may also be referred to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Survivors are encouraged to submit their application for a low-interest disaster loan, if contacted by the SBA to do so.

Homeowners may borrow up to $200,000 from SBA to repair or replace their primary residence. Homeowners and renters may borrow up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property. Businesses and private non-profit organizations may borrow up to $2 million for any combination of property damage or economic injury.

So far, 629 individuals and households have been deemed eligible for FEMA individual assistance and more than $3.7 million has been approved in grants. The SBA has approved 287 disaster loans for businesses, homeowners and renters for more than $30 million.

Survivors are encouraged to register even if they have insurance. By law, FEMA cannot duplicate insurance or other benefits but may be able to help with uninsured or underinsured losses.

Survivors can apply for disaster assistance by going online at, by using the FEMA app on a smart phone or by calling 800-621-3362 or (TTY) 800-462-7585. Applicants who use 711 or Video Relay Service can call 800-621-3362. The toll-free numbers are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., local time, seven days a week.

The Salvation Army focuses on long term recovery

Volunteers that came from our community to help receive and sort donations for the fire victims.(That’s Silvia all the way on the right end)

Although fully contained the Thomas Fire will have an effect on Ventura County for years to come. In addition to burning more than 300,000 acres, the blaze destroyed over 1,000 structures, including many homes. The Salvation Army has been serving the greatest needs of Ventura County residents affected by the fire since the initial evacuation, and the long term recovery continues today with assessments and financial assistance.

After the emergency shelters scaled down, The Salvation Army began initial recovery support operations in December through a Local Assistance Center. The Salvation Army distributed financial assistance with a total value of $128,490 to 513 households. Since January 8, The Salvation Army has shifted recovery efforts with an eye toward long-term support, including those in Santa Barbara County. As of February 13, eighty-four households have been given financial assistance valued at $68,342. These funds are the result of an assessment provided by The Salvation Army Ventura Corps and Santa Barbara Corps stationed at the Los Angeles County Disaster Recovery Center, set up at the Lake View Terrace Recreation Center.

In addition to this, The Salvation Army has supported clean-up service projects in Montecito, with more than 100 lunches served on February 10 and 11.

Salvation Army Lieutenant Silvia Simoes stated “It was a blessing to see the support from our community during such a difficult time. I had the opportunity to share love and care with so many people in so many ways and we continue to be able to provide help to individuals each day.”
The Salvation Army is asking the public for financial donations, which can be used to meet immediate challenges and specific needs. To donate, go to or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY and donate to fire relief today.


United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund grows to more than $3.7 million

Eric Harrison, President & CEO of United Way of Ventura County was a recent guest on the radio show Face of Ventura on FM station KPPQLP hosted by Publisher Brown.

Disaster victims can apply for the next phase of relief funding through the United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund, which has grown to more than $3.7 million. Through April 30, United Way of Ventura County (UWVC) will be releasing as much as $1.5 million from the fund for individual hardship assistance.

Until March 15, application forms for victims will be available at or Applicants can also call 2-1-1 or text “ThomasFire” to 898-211 to find out more. Local partnering agencies will assess each applicant’s needs and eligibility.

“The outpouring of support has been incredible, and we’re so proud to be able to get these funds out to help residents who have lost so much,” said Eric Harrison, President & CEO of United Way of Ventura County. “We have a long way to go to rebuild our community, but nobody is in it alone. Whether you lost a home, income, or have been impacted in another way, I encourage you to give 2-1-1 a call and learn more about the resources that are being extended.”

Eligible applicants for individual hardship assistance must be Ventura County residents.. Eligibility will be based on household income limits, determined by family size of 120% AMI or less. Funds will support residents in expenses related to housing, livelihood/income and habitability of their homes.

The United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund recently grew thanks to a $100,000 gift from AT&T and $150,000 from Bank of America. To provide immediate assistance in December from the fund, $500 prepaid credit cards went out to up to 1,000 residents whose homes were destroyed by the Thomas Fire.

United Way of Ventura County and United Way of Santa Barbara County formed a strategic partnership vital in helping the community recover from the Thomas Fire. The fund was later expanded to also assist flood victims and $500,000 was given for assistance in Santa Barbara County.

Further information and to donate:

Online at

By texting UWVC to 41444

By phone or mail: call 485-6288 or 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.

Property tax relief is on the way for Thomas Fire victims

Ventura County Assessor Dan Goodwin, Auditor Controller Jeff Burgh, and Treasurer-Tax Collector Steven Hintz have announced that reduced property tax bills or refunds will begin being mailed to fire victims. Staff from all three departments have been attending post-fire community meetings to answer questions, and appraisers have already inspected more than 3,000 properties.

The reduced bills or refunds of taxes previously paid are for Ventura County taxpayers whose Calamity Claims for property tax relief for property losses resulting from the Thomas Fire have been approved. The first batch of revised bills is scheduled to be mailed on this week. The bills will be mailed to the address submitted on the Calamity Claim form. Refunds will be made to the person who actually made the original payment.

“This is another example of how County agencies are working collaboratively to assist city and county residents who were affected by the Thomas Fire,” said County Executive Officer Mike Powers. “Dan, Jeff and Steven promised taxpayers relief from this disaster on December 7, just three days after the fire started. And now, that relief is already arriving. This is an extraordinary effort and a thoughtful demonstration of how local government can respond to the urgent needs of its constituents.”

For more information, contact:

Steven Hintz, Treasurer-Tax Collector, 654-3744

Dan Goodwin, Assessor, 654-2181

Jeff Burgh, Auditor-Controller, 654-3152