Thursday, January 18 , 2018, 10:24 am | Fair 62º


United Way in Santa Barbara, Ventura Counties Unite to Aid Fire Victims

The massive Thomas Fire continues to burn in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The fire has destroyed at least 921 structures, damaged 200 and is threatening 18,000 more. More than 95,000 residents have evacuated their homes in both counties.

In response to an outpouring of support, United Way of Santa Barbara County is joining forces with United Way of Ventura County with a joint fund to directly support individuals and families affected by the fire in both counties — The United Way Thomas Fire Fund.

Local community partners have determined that the United Way organizations in both counties are uniquely positioned and qualified to manage the disaster fund, accept contributions, make distributions, promote the fund and provide 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 in Ventura.

In Santa Barbara County, United Way of Santa Barbara County will coordinate with local partners such as the Santa Barbara Foundation and the Santa Barbara County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (SBC VOAD) to determine the most appropriate SBC VOAD member organizations and individuals to receive funding, based on the direct need of those affected.

United Way of Santa Barbara County may also work to address additional support for individual victims if the wildfire emergency expands into more populated areas.

“The financial and emotional costs of the loss of homes and businesses in Ventura County, including Ojai, is immense and difficult to comprehend,” said Eric Harrison, CEO, United Way of Ventura County. “We will do all we can to ensure a solid path to recovery for our residents.”

“While Santa Barbara County is fortunate in that it has not yet lost a vast number of structures, the level of stress and financial toll for thousands of evacuees will be great and includes missed work for residents, relocation costs, food, clothing property damage, childcare and healthcare,” said Steve Ortiz, president/CEO, United Way of Santa Barbara County.

“By combining our resources, we believe that we can reach more people and groups/organizations, including those outside our region, who are looking for ways to support those affected,” said Harrison and Ortiz in a joint statement.

To date, $2.25 million has been raised.

Both organizations will utilize the Ventura County systems of donating to the fund that already have been established. One-hundred percent of the donations will support those in communities affected by the wildfires.

Donations can be made by texting UWVC to 41444, online at, or or by calling 485-6288.

Checks may be sent to the United Way office, 702 County Square Drive, Suite 100, Ventura, CA 93003. Please write Thomas Fire Fund in the memo.

— Angel Pacheco for United Way of Santa Barbara County.

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