Ventura County communities are on the road to recovery with local, state, and federal support

During+the+first+week+of+the+Woolsey+and+HIll+fires%2C+smoke+could+be+seen+peeking+from+behind+the+hills.+Photo+credit%3A+Shariliz+Poveda
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Ventura County communities are on the road to recovery with local, state, and federal support

During the first week of the Woolsey and HIll fires, smoke could be seen peeking from behind the hills. Photo credit: Shariliz Poveda

During the first week of the Woolsey and HIll fires, smoke could be seen peeking from behind the hills. Photo credit: Shariliz Poveda

During the first week of the Woolsey and HIll fires, smoke could be seen peeking from behind the hills. Photo credit: Shariliz Poveda

During the first week of the Woolsey and HIll fires, smoke could be seen peeking from behind the hills. Photo credit: Shariliz Poveda

By Karina Peterson

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City officials, local governments, and federal agencies are working hard to provide aid and get Ventura County communities on the road to recovery after the disasters of the Woolsey and Hill Fires.

Looking back on the beginning of November there was immense chaos, starting with the Borderline shooting in Thousand Oaks and quickly followed by the Woolsey and Hill fires. Both wildfires started in Ventura County on Nov. 8th and burned for days, decimating large stretches of Ventura and Los Angeles counties. The region was declared a Major Disaster by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Nov. 12th.

City and local governments jumped into action for immediate assistance with the launch of the Local Assistance Center shortly after the fires began.

Matt Carroll, the County Disaster Recovery Director commented on the different tasks being tackled during this time of need, ranging from the recovery centers to public town halls residents can attend to have access to the most recent information.

“There are several things going on from the county perspective,” Carroll said. “First of all, we ran the Local Assistance Center which was helping for about 10 days after the fires started and brought all the state and local agencies together which has now scaled down to the FEMA office.”

The Local Assistance Center acted as a short-term facility through the initial recovery period until a more stable location could be secured. It was here where residents were able to gather in a central location for recovery and access to important information, ranging from crisis intervention and stress management to temporary housing and replacement driver’s licenses.

FEMA, the State of California and the US Small Business Administration (SBA) have since stepped in and established the Ventura County Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) to continue to provide these services for residents impacted by the Woolsey and Hill Fires.

Michael Jones, a customer service representative with the US Small Business Administration commented on the resources offered for those in need. He walked through the loan application process that can be done online or at the disaster center itself.

“The disaster centers do have FEMA representatives on site and Small Business Administration representatives offering low-interest rate loans to help people pay for the damages caused by the disaster,” Jones said. “The term of the loan can be as long as 30 years with the interest rate for the homeowner or renter being either 2% or 4%.”

At the centers, survivors can speak with representatives from the various agencies about the available services and assistance programs in addition to checking the status of their applications for aid and support being offered. Fire officials totaled the Woolsey Fire’s destruction at 1,643 structures destroyed and 364 more damaged, affecting communities from Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley to Malibu.

“We’re also running the debris removal program,” Carroll said. “That will clean up all the debris from the 180 some odd structures that were destroyed. That program will assist in [the] removal of burned debris from private residences, at no out of pocket cost to the homeowner.”

Carroll and Thousand Oaks officials are encouraging residents impacted by the fires to be rain ready and attend “Flood/Mud Preparedness.” This free event and community meeting are taking place on Saturday, December 8th from 9 a.m. to noon at the Oak Park High School’s Pavilion, 8999 Kanan Rd in Oak Park.

The event will give residents the chance to browse vendor expo products and provides the opportunity to speak with flood and erosion protection experts. Public Works officials with Ventura County and the city of Thousand Oaks will discuss burn area analysis and erosion control measures that will assist residents in protecting both their families and property.

“We make sandbags available to everybody at the fire stations, but if they want to do more this is a good chance to learn how,” Carroll said. “Homeowners meet with vendors and see products to help them control and protect their homes from runoff and debris flow.”

The Moorpark College Foundation also jumped in to aid and support its students, faculty, and staff affected by the Woolsey and Hill fires by coordinating the Moorpark College Emergency Relief Fund on this year’s Giving Tuesday, Nov. 27th.

An acting force working towards the support of college-related issues, the Moorpark College Foundation is a non-profit agency, that raised over $2,000. These funds are to be distributed to those in need, in hopes of assisting with expenses related to documented hardship as a result of the wildfires.

James Schulke, the Director of Institutional Advancement and Marketing at Moorpark College, is assisting with the emergency relief fund and commented on the continuation of the college’s Gofundme page.

“We’re getting ready to roll out the applications and making it available to students, faculty, and staff soon,” Schulke said. It’s a one-time award to anyone with verified need related to the Borderline tragedy and/or the Woolsey and Hill fires.”

More information regarding assistance and aid for Moorpark College student, faculty and staff is available through the main Twitter page @MoorparkCollege and #MoorparkCares as well as through the Moorpark College Foundation Facebook page.

To learn more about the debris removal process and how to be rain ready please visit Ventura County Recover’s site. This web page also offers ways to receive recovery notifications and opportunities to volunteer with United Way of Ventura County.

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