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Upper Ojai residents air their views with fire officials

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Ojai Valley News photo by Andra Belknap
Upper Ojai residents listen to speakers Thursday at a community meeting regarding the Thomas Fire.
Andra Belknap, Ojai Valley News reporter
Approximately 100 Upper Ojai structures were destroyed in the Thomas Fire, according to Ventura County Fire Department (VCFD) Division Chief John McNeil.
“Per capita that's the highest loss we've had on the fire,” McNeil said during an Upper Ojai community meeting Dec. 15.
Representatives from VCFD, the U.S. Forest Service, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) and the Ventura County Sheriff's Office (VCSO) spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at Summit Elementary School and responded to audience questions.
The gathering became tense at times — some residents said that they felt abandoned by emergency responders. 
The Thomas Fire had two start points: first at approximately 6:30 p.m. in the Steckel Park area, and second at approximately 7 p.m. at the top of Koenigstein Road, McNeil said.
“You couldn’t start a fire in a worse spot,” said McNeil of the Koenigstein start. 
McNeil and his colleagues were equipped with 20 fire engines, with three to four firefighters per engine, during the initial four to five hours of the blaze.
“As you can imagine, we (were) starting to get thin on resources, that 20 engines, when you look at the magnitude of this neighborhood, with the wall of flames coming down on it, being driven by 60 to 70 mile and hour winds, it was quite a challenge,” he said.

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