Student Voice

Moorpark College resumes classes as fires continue in the region

There+are+currently+four+different+fires+in+surrounding+area.+The+Thomas+fire+in+Ventura+has+burned+96%2C000+acres+and+is+only+5+percent+contained.+They+nearby+Rye+fire+has+been+completely+contained+but+has+yet+to+be+extinguished.+Photo+credit%3A+James+Schaap
There are currently four different fires in surrounding area. The Thomas fire in Ventura has burned 96,000 acres and is only 5 percent contained. They nearby Rye fire has been completely contained but has yet to be extinguished. Photo credit: James Schaap

There are currently four different fires in surrounding area. The Thomas fire in Ventura has burned 96,000 acres and is only 5 percent contained. They nearby Rye fire has been completely contained but has yet to be extinguished. Photo credit: James Schaap

There are currently four different fires in surrounding area. The Thomas fire in Ventura has burned 96,000 acres and is only 5 percent contained. They nearby Rye fire has been completely contained but has yet to be extinguished. Photo credit: James Schaap

By Martin Bilbao

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Moorpark College resumed classes Thursday Dec. 7 as fires still raged in the region.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Julius Sokenu encouraged faculty to adapt to the sudden closure and support students.

“The administration and faculty leadership have encouraged faculty to be flexible… as possible in considering options that will work for all of our students,” said Sokenu. “We also encouraged faculty to be responsive to students who may not be able to complete these tests and assignments as they are have been evacuated or without the emotional energy to do so right now.”

President Luis Sanchez made the decision to close the campus Dec. 6 due to poor air quality and the impending fires in the surrounding communities. The closure disrupted classes on the eve of finals week. Improved air quality and containment of local fires led to the decision to reopen the college Dec. 7. As students returned on Thursday, many had to make arrangements with professors to complete assignments and exams.

“Given that some classes are scheduled for final exams this week, some faculty responded yesterday by using Canvas for online tests,” said Sokenu. “Others provided take-home alternatives. Some are offering the opportunity to take exams as ‘in-class’ options in their offices when they can be there next week.”

The Rye fire, which could have threatened the campus, was contained by the fire department but has yet to be extinguished as of Thursday afternoon. It is unlikely that this fire will affect campus.

Another fire erupted west of Moorpark College on Shekell Rd. and Grimes Canyon but was quickly put out by the fire department, according to Ventura Community College District chief of police Joel Justice.

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The campus was shut down at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 5, due to poor air quality. On Wednesday, Dec. 6, the campus was shut down and all classes were cancelled. Today the campus was open and had classes, as air quality was determined to be suitable. Photo credit: Eric Caldwell

Ventura College and Ventura College Santa Paula have been closed since Tuesday, Dec. 5, due to the Thomas Fire. This fire is continuing to move in a northwest direction, burning Faria Beach, La Conchita, and Ojai. According to Justice, the Thomas Fire increased in intensity due to high winds and is now at 96,000 acres and only 5 percent contained.

“The areas evacuated in Ventura are still under a mandatory evacuation and the air quality is extremely poor,” wrote Justice in an email.

By Wednesday, Dec. 6, all campuses in the VCCCD district were closed, and the Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College was evacuated. The district administrative center in Camarillo was also closed.

On Thursday, Dec. 7, Moorpark College, Oxnard College and the district administrative center were reopened. The Moorpark College Teaching Zoo remains closed and evacuated.

Oxnard College remained a Red Cross evacuation shelter during normal hours. According to Justice, there are approximately 30 evacuees at Oxnard College, with more possibly on the way.

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19-year-olds Kori Lecero and Jules Van Winkle share the effects the fires have had on them and those that they know. While many students have not been impacted personally, the threat is hitting very close to home for everyone. Photo credit: Dallas Vorburger

Students across campus are feeling the effects of the fires. Whether it be seeing the action on the news, knowing someone who has been evacuated, or just smelling the hillsides burning, everyone in the local area is aware of the severe situation Southern California is in.

“The actual fire affected me more because it hurt my eyes and I couldn’t breath,” said 18-year-old Shay Johnson.

Many students returned to classes Thursday to partially filled classrooms. Others such as 19-year-old Art major Kori Lecero had classes cancelled.

“I feel bad for everyone that was affected. I had teachers cancel class,” said Lecero. “I have family in Ojai that can see it from their house.”

For many students, it will be hard to focus on finals with the current situation. The campus being closed yesterday was a reinforcement of that stress for students such as Naomi Raal, 20-year-old Environmental Science major.

“It was more kind of, the general fear surrounding the situation,” said Raal. “I have a friend who was evacuated, and my boyfriend had to evacuate and his house may be burned down. So having the campus closed just kind of hit that home even more, like how dangerous everything is.”

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Environmental Science major Naomi Raal describes how the school being shut down brought the reality of Southern California's current situation to light. Close friends and family of students are dealing with poor air quality, evacuations and watching the devastation the fires are causing. Photo credit: Dallas Vorburger

Currently there are five open evacuation centers, according to a situation status report from the the Ventura County Office of Emergency Services. The Ventura County Fairgrounds at Miners Building is open and will also shelter all types of animals. The Oxnard College gymnasium, Nordhoff high school in Ojai, the Santa Paula Community Center, and the University of California Santa Barbara Multi-Activity Center are all open to evacuees.

The Ready, Set, Go! program, is a helpful guide designed by the Los Angeles Fire Department to keep people safe from wildfires. The program calls on residents to be ready to evacuate and leave (Ready), have emergency bags ready (Set), and go when directed by authorities without hesitation (Go!).

Absolute necessities to have in emergency bags include important documents such as passports, birth certificates, IDs, and insurance papers. It is also important to include medications, a change of clothes and a toiletry bag with soaps, toothbrushes, lotions, and toothpastes. Nightwear, technology equipment (e.g. laptop, phone, chargers), a first aid kit, a flash light, back-up batteries, blankets, pillow, water bottles or canteens, and snacks should also be included.

More information about The Ready, Set, Go! Program can be found online.

Students, staff and faculty looking to help fire relief efforts in the county can direct donations to the American Red Cross. Donations can also be made to United Way of Ventura County by texting UWVC to 41444.

Individuals can also donate to personal campaigns through GoFundMe’s official list of verified survivors of the Thomas Fire at here.

Nicole Szczepanek, Danny Corrigan, Dallas Vorburger, Ash Dondeti, Chelsi Espiritu, Cole Carlson, Julia Glass and Lisette Davies Ward contributed to this report.

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About the Writer
Martin Bilbao, Editor-in-Chief

I am a political science and journalism major with a passion for writing and the pursuit of knowledge. As an immigrant and duel citizen of Ecuador and...

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