photos by Steve Cattanach
blog by Fiorella Calderoni
Understandably, the news crews stay where the action is. While the Thomas Fire has significantly impacted hundreds of families in the City of Ventura, the flames have subsided. What is left is a small city of first responders who have built a home at Ventura County Fairgrounds, and a loving community doing their best to help their neighbors recover. Looking toward Ojai or Santa Barbara from Ventura, there also remains a cloud of smoke reminding us that the fire is still active and impacting other communities around us.
It’s a tricky balance. We feel grateful that most of Ventura was spared from fire damage. The coastline, South Seaward, Ventura Harbor Village, Ventura Pier, Main Street… it all looks like it did before. It’s comforting. At the same time, we look up at the hillsides and feel heartbroken by the destruction left behind, and unity with those still battling the fire.
So what can we do? We can volunteer our time. We can share our stories. We can go the extra mile to support our local businesses and do our part to see Ventura thrive. Many of us want to make a difference either for the first responders making us safe or for those who have lost their homes.
According to a fire chief speaking at a community meeting over the weekend, firefighters themselves do not need donations at their base camps. Their operations are very well supported and they would much rather donations benefit evacuees. He suggested that one of the best ways to support first responders is by supporting the American Red Cross. Their volunteers and shelters provide comfort and a temporary home to evacuees long after the immediate threat of a fire subsides.
It’s this selfless approach that has earned first responders standing ovations all around town as they head to dinner after a hard day’s work. They have folks lining up to pay their bill but most of the time, the restaurant owners have already taken care of it. And this spirit of generosity is exactly what our city needs.
This weekend saw what I’m sure will be the first of many fundraisers to benefit the Thomas Fire Fund and it was packed to the brim.
We keep one eye on the news very aware that the fire is ongoing, but we can’t help but feel a tug to get things back to ‘normal’ -whatever that means. There are slices of blue skies above Main Street and if you look at the right angle, you can almost see ‘normal’ only something feels different. Our hearts got a little bigger. The love and support in the community are palpable.
This holiday season, we’ll be buying our Christmas gifts at mom and pop’s shop and picking up our groceries at the farmers’ market not only because it feels good but because we understand that our community needs us. We’ll attend community events with a smile while acknowledging the slight hesitation we feel to celebrate knowing we have neighbors who have lost their homes.
We’ll continue trying to find a balance and take pride in places like the Ventura County Museum hosting ornament decorations and gift sharing for those who have lost their gifts. And we’ll be here ready to support our neighboring communities recover when the smoke begins to clear above them.
Grateful. Loved. Fortunate. Concerned. It’s a complicated way to feel. But Ventura shines through. And that’s #VenturaStrong.
All photos taken by local photographer Steve Cattanach after the Thomas Fire impacted the City of Ventura.