Everyone at GranVida was affected by the Thomas Fire. Due to shifting winds, we had to evacuate and return––twice. In each instance, residents and GranVida team members reacted with courage and grace. Here are three first-hand stories…
Grace under fire.
Patty, a GranVida resident, was one of the first evacuees when her family in Carpinteria came and got her last Thursday, December 7. They “sheltered in place” at her daughter’s home down by the beach until she returned to GranVida.
They could see the fire coming over the hill, across Highway 101, and watched the embers as they showered down on the earth below the skyline. They spent mornings enjoying the breakfasts at a little eatery called Essaus and watered the community gardens in the afternoon.
Even though the streets were quiet as the ashes fell, they enjoyed the Festival of Trees at The Art Center and window shopping up and down Linden Avenue.
Patty was one of the first evacuees to return to GranVida and, as the residents shared their stories with one another, it occurred to her that it was like a “war zone” and Mother Nature was not happy.
Through all the chaos and fear that accompanies an event like this, the residents and their families were impressed by the GranVida communications at 10am and 4pm each day; the organized way that the evacuation proceeded; and the way the staff went about calming the fears and anxiety.
It was the laughter, “black humor”, faith and resident helping resident that got everyone through this experience and, according to Patty, it was an “Amazing Adventure”!
Survival and Resiliency.
The Thomas Fire started in Ashley Villarreal’s town of Santa Paula on Monday, December 4th at 6:20pm. Her family was evacuated to a friend’s home in Santa Paula on the opposite side of town. She stayed there one night then returned home.
“I saw the fire from my backyard several blocks away,” said the GranVida Sales Assistant. “The flames were hundreds of feet in the air and the wind was blowing the embers all over. I thought my home was next.”
Linda Simpson, Community Relations Director at GranVida, was evacuated from Ventura on Tuesday, December 5th at 2:00am. “We were first awakened by helicopters overhead and police bullhorns.”
“I saw the orange glow coming over the hill about six blocks away. I thought my house was gone but my first concern was for my daughter and grandson. They opened their apartment door in Ventura and saw the flames across the street and felt the heat. That’s when my daughter called me and said, ‘Get your stuff, we have to get down to Oxnard––now!’ Everything was just chaos.”
Because Highway 101 was closed two days last week, Linda and her family stayed in Oxnard for a week with friends. Her daughter’s a school teacher who’s been off for two weeks now because of poor air quality and the continuing fire danger.
Linda added, “During the evacuation, Ashley and I followed each other on 101. We went around a corner at Sea Cliff Beach and the whole mountain was on fire. I’ve survived the Loma Prieta 1989 earthquake three miles from the epicenter, but this was more scary. This is what death looks like. I never want to go through that again.”