Pictured: The Casitas Fire was knocked down in less than 24 hours on Monday, June 14, just north of Lake Casitas in the Ojai Valley. Photo by Kimberly Rivers. 

by Kimberly Rivers

Casitas fire knocked down Monday

On Monday afternoon, just after 4 p.m., the Ventura County Fire Department reported crews were responding to a brush fire north of Lake Casitas, west of Ojai, in the foothills near and around Santa Ana Creek and Cooper Canyon. 

Highway 150 was closed, and the area at Santa Ana Creek and Cooper Canyon was evacuated. At one point officials reported that three “defensible” houses were threatened. 

Multiple agencies responded and worked together along with helicopters and fixed wing aircraft providing water drops. 

The fire grew to about 188 acres, and crews got on each side of it. 

Crews monitored the fire Monday night with mop-up operations Tuesday morning. 

VCFD issued a warning on Tuesday morning related to air quality due to smoke lingering in the area and recommended those with sensitivities remain indoors or out of the area. 

Ojai restricts chair placement in advance of parade

Every year they are unleashed — the Ojai Avenue Chairs. In advance of the city’s beloved July 4 parade residents place chairs along the parade route weeks in advance. But this year the city of Ojai is announcing that no chairs are allowed to be put in place no more than one week before, on Monday, June 28, and no more than 10 chairs are allowed in a group. 

Merchants and businesses have been known to complain about the sidewalks being blocked 

The city may remove chairs placed prior to June 28,which can be collected at the city’s Public Works Yard. 

As of press deadline the permit required for the parade on Highway 150 is pending with the California Department of Transportation. 

County budget for $2.55 billion presented

On Tuesday, June 8, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors received a proposed balanced budget of $2.55 billion for fiscal year 2021-22 from Mike Powers, CEO of Ventura County.  Included in the budget is approximately $3.5 million in additional support for pandemic recovery, including business fee waiver increases. 

Funding will also be allocated for new positions in mental health diversion programs in the offices of the District Attorney and Public Defender Offices along with positions aimed at supporting diversity, equity, inclusion and community engagement. Additional staffing and services are being funded in the Farmworker Resource Program. 

Increases in funding of about $2 million also will allow seven additional inpatient psychiatric beds at the Ventura County Medical Center Inpatient Psychiatric Unit and four additional chairs for crisis stabilization. A state report found that Ventura County should have over 400 inpatient psychiatric beds; these additional seven will put the total of county-run beds at 43.

New website to combat teen vaping

The Ventura County Office of Education has created a new website to combat teen vaping. The bilingual Spanish and English site is responding to a survey that found almost a third of 11th graders in the county had tried vaping. 

The most popular vaping products all contain nicotine and have a high potential for addiction,” said Dr. César Morales, Ventura County Superintendent of Schools. 

The website provides information about the risks and dangers of vaping and resources for teens, parents and educators. 

The website “The Triple Threat to Teen Health” is live now at vaping.vcoe.org.

Memorials for four abandoned children

On June 12, the nonprofit organization Garden of Innocence held a memorial service at Ivy Lawn Memorial Park in Ventura for four infants who were left at various locations in Ventura County. 

A spokesperson with the organization said the infants were either left at the hospital, or were found abandoned in public areas. Officials tried for about 30 days to identify the infant in order to contact relatives. If none are located, the Ventura County Medical Examiner places the body in the care of Garden of Innocence, which provides a dignified burial. More information about the organization is online at www.gardenofinnocence.org

Clean Power Alliance adds more clean energy to supply

On June 3 the board of directors of the Clean Power Alliance (CPA) approved four long-term contracts adding 2256.5 megawatts of renewable energy and 163 MW of storage. One contract is with a geothermal facility, and three are solar plus storage facilities. 

CPA says this will increase long term reliability for customers. 

According to CPA, the energy produced at these locations will power 177,153 homes for a year and prevent 258,827 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the atmosphere per year from other non-renewable energy production sources. 

Fourteen additional long-term renewable energy contracts are slated to come online later this year through 2024 and include wind, geothermal and hydroelectric power generation projects as well as stand-alone storage facilities. 

Two of the contracts are with Clearway Energy Group, and are estimated to create 280 new construction jobs through 2024 and three new permanent jobs. 

CPA provides electricity across Ventura County.