Schools and students react to fires

The Thomas Fire burning in Ventura is visible to residents of Newbury Park and Thousand Oaks. Nivi Shaham/with permission

School was canceled for Dec. 6 due to the rapidly spreading fires in Ventura and Los Angeles county. In an message sent out to all families in the district, the Conejo Valley Unified School District stated “This closure is due to concerns of air quality, and is to help ensure the overall safety of the families we serve, as well as those who work in and travel to our schools and District office.”

As students arrived to school on the morning of Dec. 5, smoke was visible on the horizon. Many students had experienced power outages caused by strong winds the night before.

Katie Rose, junior, agrees, saying “I just hope that everyone stays safe and evacuates when needed.”

The Thomas Fire is currently burning over 90,000 acres, causing thousands of Ventura residents to evacuate. Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Ventura County.

Smoke from the Creek and Rye Fires was carried by wind to Newbury Park. Before students were released for lunch on Dec. 5, and announcement on the loudspeaker advised them to stay indoors but clarified that the school did not face any immediate threat. Sports practices were cancelled due to air quality as well.

Amidst this, a small fire, named the Runner Fire, broke out in Rancho Conejo. The Ventura County and Thousand Oaks Fire Departments put out flames within a matter of house, and no structures were damaged.

Several students know people who have had to be evacuated because of the Thomas fire. Katie Rose, junior, had multiple family members that had to be evacuated from their homes.

“I have cousins in Santa Paula right now who live on a ranch and they had to evacuate because their ranch is on fire. And also my aunt and uncle and other cousins are in Ventura,” Rose said. “Their whole neighborhood is on fire. They had to evacuate, and lots of friends also in Ventura had to leave.”

Shane Everitt and Kendall Weisiger, seniors, both live in Ventura, about two miles from where the fire has been raging. As of the morning of Dec. 5, they were not required to evacuate.

Both Everitt and Weisiger were caught by surprise by the fire, as it spread very quickly.

“I didn’t think it was gonna come to Ventura, because it was in Ojai and Santa Paula, and we were like, that’s so far away. And the next thing we know, it’s coming up over the hill,” Weisiger said.

Upon hearing and seeing the fire, all three girls were shocked. “At first I was a little freaked out, because I couldn’t imagine losing my house and seeing my parents distraught,” Everitt said.

“(I was) worried about other people that I know and just a little anxious that the fire could be spreading to my home and other peoples’ homes,” Rose said.

Weisiger described her experience of looking around. “When you look outside it’s all around, the hills around, every direction you look, there’s a fire.” In addition, “the helicopters just kept on circling everywhere.”

Staying safe is a top priority for everyone. “I hope everyone stays safe, and at this point I think material things are not that important,” Everitt said.

Alisha Patel, senior, said that she could see flames from the Thomas Fire from her house. “You never think it’ll happen to you or the people around you until it does,” Patel said. “It’s really unreal. I still can’t believe it’s happening.”

To help victims of the fire, Patel and Olivia Johnson, senior, are organizing a donation bin to collect nonperishable prepackaged food items, blankets, clothes, and bottled water. The bin will be in room D-27 on Thursday and Friday.

School will resume on Dec. 7 as an A day for rotating classes. Some students have expressed their unhappiness with this decision. A petition titled “Close CVUSD Schools Until There is No More Risk Of Smoke Inhalation” now has over 4,000 signatures. Students listed reasons for wanting to cancel school, including the negative health effects of inhaling smoke and the difficulties for students who need to evacuate their homes.

School will still be in session on Dec. 7 for CVUSD. The district is working to find a way to make up the lost day.


This article will be updated as more information becomes available.