The fires here in Ventura County and adjoining Santa Barbara still rage. The fire consumed 265,000 acres with 40% containment this morning. However, the fire has redirected to the city of Montecito which is now under evacuation.
Hundreds lost homes, property, and pets. People remark those city icons and landmarks they’ve loved are no longer around. (We just hiked this area a week before the fire. Remarkably, the Serra Cross first erected in late 1700’s survived).
People died. A woman and a Fire Fighter lost their lives to this fire. Hundreds more had to flee their homes with no more than the clothes on their backs.
Schools are closed because of the air quality. Most people need to wear a smoke filtering mask to go about their daily business.
All of this devastation disorients many people; more for those directly impacted by the fire and those who have no resources to stay with friends, relatives or in hotels.
I saw this loss in the eyes of those staying in Red Cross shelters and heard the stories of men, women, and children who lost everything and have no place to go.
What lifts the spirits and helps people go on is the work of many organizations, like the Red Cross, restaurants who donate food, community people and small businesses giving clothing and water. Cell phone providers donating charging stations.
Mental health staff, nurses, and children’s services came to help. Church communities reached out to provide resources and care.
Kids from schools made paper holiday wreaths, green and white linking handprints, which they gave to the shelters. Shelter clients looked up from their cots and smiled to see those decorations. Children hugged new donated stuffed animals.
Along the streets and near the base camp of the firefighting operations are “Thank You!” signs that parents and their children made. The Museum of Ventura County organized a free workshop for kids. I’m sure that weary eyes appreciate the gratitude.
What gives people hope for this trying time is a sense of community, pulling together, everyone and anyone helping to ease discomfort and pain. In stressful times like these, what children learn is how their parents react to a crisis and how a community can help.
There is much more to do in the aftermath of this fire.
The website of the Thomas Fire Fund, set up by a coalition of emergency service groups, is taking monetary donations. You can also text “UWVC” to 41444 or call 805-485-6288. Thank you.