VENTURA COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS – The Thomas fire, which broke out Monday night in Ventura County burning more than 45,500 acres, sent resident fleeing overnight and into Tuesday as it raced west toward Ventura.
Red Cross volunteer Nancy Jenkins said that the Ventura County Fairgrounds, one of three Thomas fire evacuation centers, has seen about 600 children to the elderly, some who have difficulty walking, come in since Monday night.
Ventura County has dealt with landslides and wildfires in the past, but this has already become one of the biggest incidents in recent memory, Jenkins said.
“Some people know they’ve lost their homes,” she said.
The Red Cross was having trouble getting the word out, with power outages tamping down on communication avenues.
The blaze had destroyed at least 150 structures by early Tuesday afternoon, and more than 27,000 people had evacuated.
Retiree Chris Ketvirtas said she left her Ventura apartment after receiving an official emergency text about midnight. The text was long – she only read the beginning before fleeing while seeing flames.
“It said ‘mandatory evacuation,’ and that was enough for me,” she said.
Ketvirtas doesn’t have a car and hitched a ride with others. She slept on a cot for a couple of hours. She wished she had grabbed her laptop. She didn’t know if her apartment is still standing.
“I’m impressed,” Ketvirtas said. “(The) Red Cross is doing a fantastic job, giving us everything we need.”
Fred Mariscal, a Red Cross spokesman, said the crowd at the fairgrounds will grow, as law enforcement expands mandatory evacuation areas.
“The big challenge is to make sure people listen to law enforcement, and they know we’re here,” he said. “Their first priority should be their safety. Second, if their homes.”
Christy Harris of Oxnard was at the fairgrounds with three horses she owns since the Miners Building there was accepting all types of animals, as well. Her house is fine, but she heard two friends lost theirs and a ranch she has used was destroyed.
“Coming [north] toward Camarillo this morning, I wasn’t prepare for what I saw. I’m an emotional person to begin with,” Harris said. The wind-blown flames and smoke, she said, “looked like the apocalypse.”
Kathleen Cain and Vickey McArthur, retirees who share a house in Oak View, walked slowly with canes between shelter buildings after evacuees were transferred from fairgrounds exhibition halls to a livestock…