Local community response goes above and beyond in the wake of the Maria Fire

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Local community response goes above and beyond in the wake of the Maria Fire

The Maria Fire engulfs a tree in flames after burning down a structure underneath it  just outside of Camarillo on W La Loma Ave, on Friday, Nov. 1. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

The Maria Fire engulfs a tree in flames after burning down a structure underneath it just outside of Camarillo on W La Loma Ave, on Friday, Nov. 1. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

The Maria Fire engulfs a tree in flames after burning down a structure underneath it just outside of Camarillo on W La Loma Ave, on Friday, Nov. 1. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

The Maria Fire engulfs a tree in flames after burning down a structure underneath it just outside of Camarillo on W La Loma Ave, on Friday, Nov. 1. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

By Whitney Bussell

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Just after 6 p.m. on Oct. 31 the Maria Fire broke out atop of South Mountain just south of Santa Paula. The fire quickly grew to 8,060 acres by 4 a.m. according to the VCFD PIO. Over 500 firefighters are working tirelessly to battle this fast moving fire.

The Ventura County Fire Department and supporting agencies have been working diligently throughout Ventura County since the start of the Easy Fire in Simi Valley on Oct. 30. The Easy Fire was 60 percent contained as of 5 a.m. and resources were sent to assist in the Maria Fire.

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CAL Fire trucks begin to move locations as the Maria Fire edges closer to residential buildings on Friday, Nov. 1. The Maria Fire has burned over 8,000 acres and destroyed at least two structures. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

Steve Kaufmann, Fire Captain and PIO for VCFD stated, “One of the things that benefited us … we had the Easy Fire, we had all that equipment already here in the county.”

In the event of a wildfire, there are numerous individuals working around the clock to assure the safety and assurance of evacuated residents. Evacuations are currently in place for 7500 residents and growing. The Red Cross provides community shelters for those forced to evacuate.

Greg Hoffmann works as a shelter coordinator for the Red Cross, Thousand Oaks chapter. Hoffman worked the Easy Fire shelter located at the Thousand Oaks Community Center and was immediately dispatched to the Camarillo Community Center to set up a shelter in response to the Maria Fire.

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Greg Hoffmann smiles as he works the night shift at the Red Cross shelter in Camarillo for those affected by the Maria Fire on Friday, Nov. 1. Over 6,000 residents were placed under mandatory evacuation in the Maria Fire. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

Volunteers make up 90 percent of the American Red Cross and are readily available in the event of a disaster. “The amount of people volunteering is just amazing,” said Hoffman.

The American Red Cross requests community volunteers during every fire.

According to Hoffman, there is nothing quite like it, “The community, working with people, feeling you’re making a difference and helping people.”

All volunteers must be 18-years-old and complete an online application and submit a background check. A minimum of 20 hours a year is required by all volunteers.

Nicole Maul, spokesperson for the Red Cross stated, “Usually for planning purposes we plan for 10 percent of those evacuated to come to a shelter.”

Volunteers like Hoffman work around the clock to assure that the expected 10 percent of evacuees have a safe place to go.

The Ventura County Animal Shelter opened its doors for small pets and coordinated large animals to be taken to the Ventura County Fairgrounds where VCAS workers are there to provide large animal owners with all the supplies they need.

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Evacuated animals from the Maria Fire are dropped off at the Ventura County Animal Shelter in Camarillo, Calif. Photo courtesy of Ventura County Animal Services.

The coordinated efforts of various agencies throughout Ventura County in a time of crisis go above and beyond.

Randy Friedman, PIO for Ventura County Animal Services shared his knowledge on behind the scene efforts made by the volunteers and community.

“They just want to keep helping,” expressed Friedman. “This is a very unique community with a passionate response to animal rescue.”

Friedman coordinates the efforts of where animals will be directed in a time of crisis including working directly with the Emergency Volunteer Rescue Team, a volunteer team trained to go out into the scene of fires and rescue loose animals.

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Director of Ventura County Animal Services Jackie Rose (left), helping transport evacuated animals from the Maria Fire on Oct. 31. Photo courtesy of Ventura County Animal Services.

The response to crisis is a role many play a part in. From firefighters battling the blaze to the people assisting the community, Ventura County is a community that comes together in times of need.

First Responders are actively fighting the Maria Fire and evacuations are underway. Be sure to check VCemergency for the most up to date evacuation orders in your area.

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