Wednesday, 12 Dec 2018
News

A massacre and fires raging: Mille Oaks is struggling with 'chaos without stopping'.

An American flag flies at half-mast when the Woolsey Fire burns in the background near the Goebel Adult Center, used as a forest fire escape center, less than 48 hours after 12 people were killed during a mass shootout in a neighborhood bar. (Philip Cheung / For the Washington Post) Thousand Oaks, California – In 24 hours, Sgt. Eric Buschow experienced two tragedies and did not sleep more than two hours. Information officer at the Ventura County Sheriff's Office, Buschow responded Wednesday night to a shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill killing 12 people. He worked on the scene all day, when the FBI arrived and the names of the victims were made public, before going to bed at 19 hours. Thursday. Two hours later, he was awake again. The fire that raged in Woolsey, which began this afternoon and has grown rapidly, has come too close to his family's home. They were forced to evacuate. Thousand Oaks is struggling with two tragedies that took place a few hours apart, resulting in more trauma and grief than a place could or should bear. After the shooting at Borderline, a popular country music bar, many residents said they got up late, waiting for news. They went to bed physically and emotionally exhausted on Thursday, to be woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of emergency alerts from their phones and frantic beatings at the neighbors' door. They needed to go out, we told them. "Each of these incidents would be a big issue at any given time," said Buschow, "but having them all converge at the same time is unprecedented for us." This city of nearly 130,000 is big enough to feel big, but small enough where many people are familiar faces. The Spanish red roofs overlook the homes and shopping centers of this family-friendly city with dozens of parks and playgrounds. Friday, the normally picturesque city was surrounded by smoke. Buschow and his family had to sleep in a car parked in the parking lot of a community college. The fire threatened a large number of nearby evacuation shelters and the hotels in Thousand Oaks were filled with reporters and residents of the area looking for security. When the sun rose, his wife and children returned to their home – who survived the fire – and went to work. Hundreds of staff members from more than 30 law enforcement agencies across the state converged in the Thousand Oaks area, first to assist in the shooting and then to the fires.[[[[They survived Las Vegas. Then came a second mass shot.]The FBI was there to investigate the shooting in a scene described as coming from hell. The agency's efforts have been complicated by fears that forest fire debris and smoke could contaminate evidence from the shooting. Customers threw stools through the windows to escape, leaving behind holes in the walls on which the FBI mounted, Buschow said.
People pray in front of the Alex Fiore Thousand Oaks Teen Center, which serves as a fire escape center for residents of the Woolsey Fire Shelter on Friday. (Philip Cheung / For The Washington Post) There is concern that the fire is spreading to the bar. Buschow said the security forces were looking for ways to mitigate the risks, and that there is an emergency plan to protect the scene and the agents who work it safely. . After working all day Thursday, FBI agents withdrew to their hotel near Agoura Hills, before being evacuated when the Woolsey fire, one of many forest fires burning in the south from California, was raging towards them. The agents fled, said Buschow. They had nowhere to go, so they also slept in their cars. "But you know what, at 5 in the morning they were back at the Borderline to do their job," he said. "One of the fires occurred on the highway. 101, a main artery that connects communities in the valley, obstructing the arteries of transportation and delaying for several hours the first responders who had been sent to relieve people like Buschow "It's absolutely chaotic, non-stop chaos", said Buschow.[[[[
The 12 lives lost in the shooting of the California Bar]He added, "We also have funerals to plan the appointment of a deceased sergeant." Sgt. Ron Helus, a 30-year-old sheriff veteran, was among those killed at the bar. About five kilometers from the border, officials had to redevelop the Thousand Oaks Teen Center. Thursday, it is at this time that the relatives of missing persons in Borderline were informed of the presence of their relatives among the 12 victims. People cried and hugged and prayed. One man told the world through sobs that his beloved son was dead and that his last words to his child were: "Son, I love you." Clergy members flocked into the entrance and a little therapy horse dragged himself between the bar. and center. About 12 hours later, the complex reopened, this time to house residents fleeing the forest fire. A gym was filled with green beds. A woman under oxygen was lying on one of the beds, a dog by her side. People wore green masks to protect themselves from the smoke. Others used water and food: muffins, cereal bars, fruit, croissants and bilberry scones. At the nearby senior citizens' center, a group of mostly elderly residents sat at long tables and watched television. A small fire was declared Friday morning on a hill near the center but was quickly controlled by firefighters. Patricia Reynolds, 57, was sitting on the metal stands in the Teen Center gym with her daughter Lyndsay Witkoski, 25, and her neighbor Mary Ann Best, 90. "It's a roller coaster for me emotionally," she said through tears. "My heart hurts everyone." She had remained awake until 4 am Thursday to follow the news of the border shootings. At night, her phone rang: she had to evacuate her condo complex. Her husband and son were at work and her daughter was in college in Northridge, a Los Angeles neighborhood about 35 km northeast. "I did not know what to do," Witkoski said through sobs. She was already in pain and felt lost. "I decided to go home anyway because I did not know what to do."
Patricia Reynolds, 57, is overwhelmed by emotions on Friday as she waits in a temporary dormitory for residents to take shelter at Woolsey Fire's shelter at Alex Fiore's Thousand Oaks Teen Center. (Philip Cheung / For the Washington Post) Karissa Herbert, 17, knew what she had to do. She and her friends came to the center with packages of toothbrushes, deodorant and snacks for the evacuees. The seniors at Rancho Campana High School in Camarillo, just west of Thousand Oaks, knew people who had survived the Borderline bar shot. The Borderline is one of the few places in the region where people under 21 can go out at night. Herbert said that she was texting every hour on Thursday to a friend who had escaped the shooting. On Friday, she felt the need to help the evacuees. "What are the chances of this happening, a fire right after the shooting?" Said Herbert. "The first responders had to deal with the loss of these innocent teenagers and then the fire. It's like, how much can we take? Across the city, Beatriz Bera was exhausted in the lobby of a hotel at 4 pm on Friday. She and her family were woken up by phone alerts two hours earlier telling them to evacuate, followed by their real estate manager knocking on the door. Bera's family came to a hotel where her mother is a housekeeper. "It's too much." First with Borderline shooting, now fire, "said Bera, 21. As said the assistant Dean of Students at California Lutheran University: "The whole city of Thousand Oaks is tired." Outside the campus of the university, Brandon Apelian waved a black and white flag with an orange stripe – a banner to honor those who fight the flames – when a classmate walked up to him, "I just wanted to say thank you for being here, you made my day," said Ramon Olivier, 22, senior and major in music production at # 39; school. "My friend Meek is dead." Olivier had been forced to evacuate while mourning the loss of his classmate.
Justin Meek, dead in the shooting in the Borderline bar. The school president described Meek as "one of the best students we have ever had". Meek and Olivier played water polo at school. Meek was killed trying to save other people in the nightclub, the university said in a statement. "It hurts me to see everyone else injured," said Olivier. "This community is so tight." Katie.mettler@washpost.com Annie Gowen and Tony Biasotti of Thousand Oaks, California, contributed to this report. .

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