Clarification: The following story mentions that Phi Sigma Kappa hosted a charity car wash. Alpha Chi Omega co-hosted the event.
As firefighters continue to fight the four remaining blazes in Southern California this week, Congress is passing a resolution to recognize those who have helped combat the fires, while local organizations are creating programs to ease the burden on fire victims.
Since the blazes began on Oct. 21, the fires have damaged the Southern California coast considerably. Fires burned in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego Counties. So far, the wildfires have burned 518,066 acres, destroyed 3,097 structures, damaged 509 structures, and threatened 2,325 additional structures.
Authorities have reported 7 fatalities and 124 injuries as a result of the fires, according to a press release from 35th District Assemblyman Pedro Nava’s office.
Local government representatives, including 23rd District Congresswoman Lois Capps, are working with the U.S. Congress in dealing with the aftermath of the charred Southern California region. Capps’ spokeswoman Emily Kryder said the congresswoman spoke on the House floor in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to support House Resolution 778 – a resolution written to recognize the service and sacrifice of people who have helped fight the wildfires and support its victims.
In her address to the speaker of the House, Capps said it was important to commend the individuals who have assisted with helping those who have suffered from the fires.
“Over the last 10 days, wildfires have devastated much of Southern California,” Capps said. “Hundreds of thousands of acres have been burned. Thousands of homes and businesses have been destroyed. While this tragedy has faded from the headlines, thousands of our first responders, military personnel and volunteers continue to battle the fires and aid the recovery effort. Today we commend these amazing individuals.”
California’s emergency preparedness systems and procedures are among the best in the nation, Capps said in her speech, and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services was able to coordinate and allocate resources to the areas that needed them most.
“Local firefighters from San Diego battled flames alongside colleagues from Nevada, while planes from Wyoming and Colorado filled their tanks at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station just outside my district,” Capps said.
In Isla Vista, the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity is putting on a car wash this Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m at their location on Cordoba Road behind Freebirds restaurant. Fraternity spokesman Brian Kelly said all proceeds from the car wash will go to the American Red Cross for fire victims.
“I know that a lot of people have been affected by the fires, and one member of our fraternity actually had his house burn down,” Kelly said.
Other Santa Barbara residents are also creating projects to support those affected by the Southern California wildfires. Santa Barbara native Gabe Dominocielo said he and his friends started a social networking Web site, disastervictim.org, to aid victims of the fire.
Dominocielo is an owner of Interclique Inc., which is an organization specializing in the creation of small social networks. He said the site is a good resource for fire victims and volunteers.
“It’s like a MySpace for fire victims and volunteers,” Dominocielo said. “We wanted to set it up so volunteers could talk to people who need help.”
Interclique CEO Richard Girard said in the press release that the site gives victims a safe haven to have their voices heard.
“We saw the pain and desperation in so many of the victims on TV and felt compelled to help in some small way,” Girard said. “We thought that by creating a free community Web site where victims can share openly their stories, emotions, struggles and ambitions with one another, we could serve as an aid to those suffering the most. In essence, this service gives victims a voice.”
Federal and local aid efforts have also come at a time when many families are in need. Last week, over 900,000 Southern California residents were forced to evacuate their homes. Many UCSB students, along with their families and friends, have felt the effects of the wildfires.
Erica Davis, a fourth-year business economics and Spanish major from Del Mar, said her family heard about the wildfire in the eastern part of the county last Sunday, but did not think it would reach them.
“They didn’t think it would affect them because our town is coastal,” she said. “But on Monday, police officers came around and suggested that people evacuate. They grabbed some things, like a painting that has been in our family for a long time, and left.”
Davis said her family has evacuated in previous years when fires threatened their town’s safety. She said her parents have never worried until now, following reports that claimed winds were shifting toward Del Mar.
“Thankfully, the house is OK and they’re back in the house now,” Davis said. “But everything was really dirty and there was a thick layer of smoke above the entire town.”
Although all evacuation orders in San Diego County were lifted yesterday, other evacuation orders are still in effect in Orange and San Bernardino Counties.