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United Way of Ventura County Responds to the Thomas Fire

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

An explosive brush fire, named the Thomas Fire, has spread quickly across Ventura County. Burning an estimated 31,000 acres in a matter of hours, the fire has forced thousands of residents to flee and has left at least one person dead.

To respond, United Way of Ventura County, the American Red Cross of Ventura County, and the Ventura County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services have formed a strategic partnership that will be vital in helping the community recover. Notably, the residents of the 150 homes and several apartment buildings that have already been destroyed and the estimated 600 people who are being temporarily housed at the fairgrounds will need our support and resources. If you know those affected by the fires, please call 2-1-1 or text thomasfire to 898-211 to get connected and get answers.

United Way has set-up the Thomas Fire Fund and a text-to-give campaign. 100% of the donations will support those in our community affected by the wildfires. Donations can be made by texting UWVC to 41444, online at or calling 805-485-6288. Checks may be sent to the United Way office at 702 County Square Drive, Suite 100, Ventura, CA 93003. Please write “Thomas Fire Fund” in the memo.

In the aftermath of spontaneous disasters, many generous community members step up to help those in need around them. One of the challenges after a catastrophe strikes is mobilizing those caring citizens so they can effectively help their neighbors and neighborhoods. In order to best engage spontaneous volunteers during a disaster, United Way, the Red Cross, and the Sheriff's Department are collaborating so that community members can volunteer easily and be directed to the City and County departments or community-based organizations where their volunteering will have the most impact.

“United Way is actively working with the County of Emergency Services Director Kevin McGowan,” said Eric Harrison, President & CEO of United Way of Ventura County. “At this point in time, and on his recommendation, we are waiting to activate our Volunteer Center community members, but we are prepared to do so.”

The Thomas Fire is still out of control and continues to expand, threatening lives and homes in Ventura County. United Way, the American Red Cross, and the Sheriff’s Office will continue to work closely together to meet the evolving needs our community.

Staff and volunteers from the Office of Emergency Services, United Way, Red Cross, Volunteer Agencies Active in Disaster (VOAD) Lutheran Social Services, and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief have an agreement how best to implement and manage the wildfire relief fund. These partners determined that United Way will manage the disaster fund, accept contributions, make distributions, promote the fund, and be responsible for providing a report to the community on how the funds were used. After the wildfire is contained, a committee of representatives from community- and faith-based organizations will be convened to assess needs and allocate money from the fund. Committee participation will be driven by the communities affected and services needed in response to the disaster.


United Way of Ventura County
In the aftermath of a disaster, United Way's Ventura County Volunteer Center will serve as an online, call, and walk-in center for spontaneous volunteers. The Volunteer Center will register volunteers and coordinate with the Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services to place them where they can do the most good for the community. 2-1-1 Ventura County will also be available 24/7 to register volunteers, answer questions, and connect those in need with the resources to help them.

Ventura County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services
During and after an emergency, the Office of Emergency Services (OES) will coordinate response and recovery activities for Ventura County. OES staff will work with all County departments, United Way of Ventura County, the Red Cross, and other community civic groups to mobilize volunteers and direct them to the locations and organizations where they can do the most good during and after an emergency.

American Red Cross of Ventura County
After a disaster, the role of the Red Cross is to provide food, shelter, health services, financial assistance and other emergency needs for families affected by disaster until they can access more permanent aid provided by local, state and federal agencies. The Red Cross assists with long term recovery by coordinating services with other agencies such as The Salvation Army and United Way to help families affected by disasters.

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