Lyndon Thomas January 2018

LYN’S LEDGER

Lyndon Thomas Insurance

Jan 2018

We Help You With Medicare.

The Incredible People of Ojai

COMING TOGETHER AFTER THE THOMAS FIRE

W hen my family and I moved to Ojai in 1992, people were still talking about the great Wheeler Fire that burned through the Valley in 1985. Living as we do in Southern California, it’s a not a matter of if but when wildfires invade our lives. While memories of other fires named “Day,” “Ranch,” “Spring,” and “School” linger, we’ll be talking for years to come about the Thomas Fire of 2017. The Thomas Fire invaded everyone’s lives, and everyone has a story to tell. In the Ojai Valley, as the flames crested Sulphur Mountain in the south on Dec. 5 and then on Dec. 6 burned across Nordhoff Ridge on the entire north side of the valley, we were in wonder at the miraculous lack of wind. While homes were lost on the edges of the Ojai Valley, had the winds been blowing as they were a day earlier, Ojai would have become known as the town that burned down. Gratefully, if you look at a burn map of the Thomas Fire, you will see that the Ojai Valley appears as a donut hole in the burn area. Disasters by their very nature cause tremendous chaos and confusion. Do I evacuate or stay? What do I take if I leave? Bam! I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was! What is accurate information or just in-the-moment panic? The Thomas Fire revealed social media at its best and at its unfiltered worst. Watching the flames via media, family and friends called from afar and pleaded, “Run!” The Ventura County Fire Department has taken a lot of feedback for the 3 a.m. Carpinteria evacuation texts to everyone in Ventura and Ojai. Chaos, yes! Oh, and the worst days of the fire for Ojai were the final days of the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period. That made for some very exciting days for me! For those not dealing with direct loss, daily life has pretty much returned to normal, with cleanup being the task. However, for those directly affected, the aftermath of the

fires keeps rolling along like a bad cloud. Our hearts and prayers go out to those who have lost homes as they seek to rebuild not only their homes but their lives. Merchants in Ojai are suffering. Workers are being laid off. Area orchards have lost the majority of their crops. Nobody wants to experience a disaster, but there are some positive, moving takeaways from an event like this. Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties are great places to live! Our local first responders — and mutual aid fire support from across the country — performed courageously and tirelessly. It has been gratifying to see and hear the way our communities have come together. Ventura County is exhibiting government at its best with recovery centers bringing resources to the residents hardest hit. One thing we like about Ojai is that it has kept its small- town feel, and in the wake of Thomas, we came together in true neighborly fashion. Everyone I saw was willing to do whatever it took to help their neighbors make it through. It was a blessing to watch. It might be a cliché, but tragedy truly does bring out the best in people. The petty complaints we have about day-to-day life are put in perspective when the fire roars through and people are evacuating. Instead of living in our own worlds, we come together. I hope that lesson sticks with us long after the last ember is out. Like all of you, I’ve inhaled enough smoke for a while, and it will be a long time until we completely recover from the Thomas Fire. Soon enough, another fire will come — if not mudslides before. But if that’s the price we pay to be a member of this great community, then I’m more than happy to pay it.

– Lyn Thomas

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