Fighting Fire with Compassion

A+Pile+of+Support+--+Donations+pile+up+outside+of+the+TOHS+gym.+Families+took+photos+with+the+ever-growing+pile%2C+and+left+feeling+proud+and+fulfilled.+The+firefighters+receiving+the+goods+were+thankful+for+the+support.

A Pile of Support — Donations pile up outside of the TOHS gym. Families took photos with the ever-growing pile, and left feeling proud and fulfilled. The firefighters receiving the goods were thankful for the support.

Keeping the Easy fire (in Ventura County, which was 5 percent contained and had burned 1,491 acres burned as of Friday according to fire.ca.gov) at bay is hard work. Thursday night, firefighters came to the Thousand Oaks High School gym to eat and rest. Here, from 8-10 p.m., the community donated snacks, hot food, water and more.

The frenzy started after a tweet from TOHS principal, Dr. Eric Bergmann.

“Lancers… we’ve got 200 firefighters showing up at the Lancer gym at 8 p.m. for some much needed rest. They could use water, snacks and Gatorade!!! If you are able and willing, please bring some to the TOHS gym!  Spread the word!”

The district retweeted his post, and it immediately blew up across various social media. The support was overwhelming. By the end of the night, people donated more than enough.

“We didn’t know for sure if we were going to be able to do this because [the school’s] power was out until 20 minutes before the firefighters arrived, so we were kind of on hold. We have a super strong community… and the second that we got word that [the drive] was going to go, I started getting money donations… It’s pretty darn amazing,” Natalie Bregmann Petersen said.

Firefighters from across California came to rest at the gym, some as far as Novato in Marin County. Near there, the Kincade fire (in Sonoma County, which was 60 percent contained, and had burned 76,825 acres burned as of Friday; fire.ca.gov) is burning.

“It’s more common than you think, but it brings out the good nature in people. Seeing the community come together — it’s nice” Jeff Whittet, a battalion chief from the Novato Fire District, said.

Having arrived from the six hour drive, they stopped at the base camp. They then headed to the school for food and rest.

Students came and helped out too — distributing deliveries, directing donations, and braving the cold temperatures and 30 mph plus winds. People showed up in trucks and SUVs stocked with packages of water bottles and snacks. At the Westlake Village Vons, families divided and conquered. They filled up carts and emptied shelves. Restaurants and businesses dropped off hot food. One person even ordered pizzas from the Domino’s across the street from the school.

Although volunteers appreciated the hot food, it could not go to the firefighters in the gym. Instead, it went to the Thousand Oaks Community Center for the evacuees.

“It’s very overwhelming. When I was at CVS buying food, I was like, ‘what if no one shows up,’ which I knew wasn’t true. But then we got here and so many people [donated]… It’s overwhelmingly cool to see,” junior class president Katie Daniels said.

The Lancer would like to give special thanks to the firefighters keeping us safe. And to community members, thank you for your constant support. Stay safe, stay aware and stay green.