We Are Strong

Alex E., Editor in Chief

On Wednesday, November 7th, a mass shooting took place at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California. This mass shooting, in our own backyard, cost the lives of 12 innocent victims whose ages ranged from 18-54. It was College Night at Borderline, which means that students from local colleges like Moorpark, Cal Lutheran, and Pepperdine could come in to dance and have a fun time. Some of these victims, as well as other patrons who were at the bar that night, were also present at the Las Vegas shooting that happened just over a year ago, at the Route 51 Country Music Festival. With over 100 people at Borderline the night of the shooting, many people in our tightly knit community know someone who was at the bar or affected by the mass shooting.

Almost immediately after the Borderline tragedy became front page news, the Woolsey fire broke out on Thursday, November 8th, in the hills of Simi Valley and quickly spread throughout Ventura county. The fire caused mandatory evacuations in Long Canyon, Bridle Path, Oak Park, and many other neighborhoods, as well as voluntary evacuations throughout Simi Valley and the rest of Ventura County. At its height, the Woolsey fire reached from the south hills of Simi Valley to the beaches of Malibu and caused the destruction of over 1400 structures and damage to over 300 structures. Due to its massive size and destructive nature, the Woolsey Fire is the 8th most deadly fire in modern California history. Within a short time  of each other, a smaller fire named the Hill Fire, broke out in the Camarillo area at Hill Canyon and Santa Rosa roads in the Santa Rosa Valley. It quickly burned areas just north of Newbury Park and prompted school closures. Due to its smaller size, minimal destruction of structures, and quicker containment, the Hill Fire was significantly less devastating and deadly than the Woolsey Fire.

Ever since the devastation and extreme destruction that occurred in early November, Ventura County has been coming together to try to help those who were affected by either of the  tragedies. Throughout Ventura County, the residents have been rallying to get support from people across the nation and volunteering to help rebuild and restore our community to the way it was before. Support has been flowing in to help the shooting victims with funeral and monetary support in their time of need. Meanwhile, fire victims have been getting tons of assistance to temporarily relocate and rebuild their homes, businesses, and other structures destroyed by the fires wrath.

Community Reacts to Borderline Shooting:

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol, FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and a SWAT Team all played major parts in helping the night of the shooting, as well as with the aftermath and investigation following the shooting. Sgt. Ron Helus and a California Highway Patrolman were first to the scene and were heroic and instrumental in keeping the death toll as low as it was. Minutes later a SWAT Team, FBI agents, and other officers arrived and entered the building to help get the survivors out safely and make sure the shooter was taken down. Officials from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office in processing evidence at the scene and at the shooter’s home and in trying to discover the shooter’s motive.

After the shooting, officials designated the Thousand Oaks Teen Center as the place for worried family members and friends of those at Borderline to get information and hopefully be reunited with their loved ones. Sadly, it also became the place where family members and friends found out if their loved ones had been murdered in the shooting. Grief counselors and local political officials were there to offer support and often consolation to the survivors and those who had lost a loved one. The American Red Cross set up across the street, and accepted donations to support victims’ families and the survivors.

Emotional support is not the only help the community has been giving the victim’s families and the survivors. Many different nonprofits and victims families set up numerous GoFundMe’s and other monetary donation drives. The Rotary Club of Westlake Village, in coordination with Borderline’s owner Brian Hynes, set up a GoFundMe page to help victims and families of victims of the Borderline Bar and Grill mass shooting which has so far raised more than $100,000 since it was created on Nov. 8, one day after the shooting. The Ventura County Community Fund coordinated two separate funds; one for the Borderline Shooting Victims and another for the Fire Victims. Conejo Valley Fire Side BBQ & Appliances is holding a raffle for a new BBQ worth $2,999 in memory of Sgt. Ron Helus, with all the proceeds going to his family. Rock City Studios held a benefit concert for the Borderline Victims on Nov. 30th in Camarillo. All of the proceeds from the concert and concurrent silent auction will go to the victims’ families. Many restaurants have had fundraiser nights and many businesses have held fundraisers and given donations to those who lost their homes or businesses. In addition, many private individuals and nonprofits have held fundraisers and support groups to help mend our community.  

In addition to monetary drives, the United Blood Services held blood drives to collect blood for Los Robles Hospital, where many of the injured were taken after the shooting. Also, over the weeks following the shooting, many vigils and memorials were planned to honor the memory of the victims of the shooting. Everyone in the community was invited to come and celebrate the lives of the victims, as well as mourn their loss.

Community Reacts to Fires:

Local Fire Departments worked 24/7 to fight the Woolsey & Hill fires and protect the community. Many firefighters worked nonstop for 24 to even 48 hours because they knew that they needed to stay on top of the fires, so they couldn’t wait until morning to start up again. All the Local Fire Departments deserve our utmost gratitude for all the hard work and long hours they put into keeping our community safe as possible from the fire. In addition, Fire Departments from across the country drove many hours to help fight the Woolsey & Hill Fires and protect the people of Ventura County. From Texas to Utah and beyond, firefighters came in large numbers and helped save many structures and lives by helping with the effort regardless of how far from home it was.

During the fires, the local governments were quick to send evacuation alerts, set up evacuation centers, and keep civilians out of fire zones. People who live in areas that were in possible danger of being burned down got evacuation notices through calls, texts, and social media reports. The evacuation alerts were a life saving necessity for these fires due to their fast moving nature and ability to jump distances due to the wind. The Thousand Oaks Teen Center, which was just starting to clear out of those affected by the Borderline shooting, became one of the many evacuation centers for those who were under mandatory and evacuation. The number of evacuation centers had to be increased many times due to the incessant fires that kept on entering new neighborhoods. The evacuation centers offered food, water, shelter, and other types of support to those evacuated because of the fire. When the firefighters were fighting the fires, the police did a great job of keeping the evacuated houses safe from being burglarized on vandalized.

The support during the fires wasn’t the only help the community gave to those affected by the fires. The Ventura County set up a website called “Ventura County Recovers,” which lists resources and information the community can use to help themselves or others, rebuild their structures, and recover from the fires that burned throughout the county. As stated previously, the VCCF has set up the Hill Fire and Woolsey Fire Sudden and Urgent Needs Effort to raise funds for those who lost property in the fires. The American Red Cross has also been fundraising for the fire victims, as well as organizing volunteer efforts throughout Ventura County. The Thousand Oaks Public Library hosted the California Department of Insurance Consumer Services Division to help those who lost their homes or businesses with questions on coverage, tips and information about potential scams that are seen during and after disasters. They also hosted the Department of Motor Vehicles, so those who lost their homes in the fires could get replacement driver license and identification cards, as well as other DMV services.

In addition to the fundraisers for the victims of the fires, many businesses have been chipping in to help. SelectaBed and the Tempflow Mattress company in Agoura Hills is offering up to $1000 worth of bedding to each family that has lost their homes. The companies are also offering a free pillow to first responders. The Chabad of the Conejo is serving as a distribution center to help those impacted by the Woolsey and Hill fires. The center is collecting items to be distributed to those affected by the fire. AirBnB has let volunteers with extra space in their homes advertise to host evacuees and first responders on their disaster and relief page, free of charge.

Although Simi Valley was not the epicenter of all the tragedies, the Royal Valley was still greatly affected by everything that has happened to our neighbors and friends. So, the Royal Valley has been working hard to help the community and Ventura County as a whole. The Royal High DECA club is putting on their 32nd Annual Used Clothing and Toy Drive and the items collected by the drive will go to the victims of the fires in our community. Also, Royal High School is sponsoring our own donation drive to support those affected by the shooting and the fires. The donation drive, put on by the ASB, will be set up to collect goods, money and gift cards to help the shooting victim’s families as well as those whose houses were damaged or burned down in the fires.

All of these fundraisers, blood drives, donation drives, and more show how much our  local communities care for each other and are willing to help when others in our community need assistance and support. These examples barely scratch the surface of all the good those in Ventura County and beyond have been doing to support our community. No matter the size of your donation, the amount of hours you volunteered, the number of events you went to, etc. the entire community thanks you!