Thomas Fire Stories: Kelly More ’20


Kelly More ‘20. Credit: Grayson McCoy / The Foothill Dragon Press

Amanda Perez


As Kelly More ‘20 started to fall asleep on Dec. 4, 2017, at around 9:30 p.m., she could hear her parents walking around and moving things. She was fast asleep by 10:30 p.m. when her dad bursted into the room.

Her initial thought was that one of her dogs had been eaten by a coyote since there were a lot near her house on Via Arroyo Hillway circle, but her dad started yelling, telling her that there was a fire. She went to her window and only saw “a little red glow.” So, she originally packed a few things: toiletries, two t-shirts and a pair of shorts because she intended to come back.

When she went outside, she realized she needed to get more of her belongings because she recalled thinking, “it’s creeping over my hill and it’s about to—it’ll definitely hit my house.”

She frantically grabbed more things and started loading her dogs into the car.

By the time her family left her home, they were the last ones out of their neighborhood because they had no idea what was going on.

“It took us an hour to get down because they had to keep pushing Clearpoint down” More said. “I got really emotional ’cause I thought we had no place to live,” she said.

Matters got worse as the night went on when their cars got separated and her family members couldn’t find each other. “We were originally supposed to meet them at the Vons parking lot, but then we couldn’t get in—my mom and I.”



“So then we drove all the way down to Oxnard to look for service and for actual people to help us. No one was there. The power was out. I had no service, and it was so bad,” More expressed.

Finally, they found some service and could contact the rest of the family. The two of them met up with her dad. From there, they stayed at the house of More’s friend, Jocelyn Hernandez ‘21 for a couple days. They then went to a hotel for a week and finally found a place in Oxnard where they stayed for seven months.

“The firemen saved our house,” More said. Outside of their home, they had wood chips, so when the heat had crept up into the walls, it started a little fire. The firemen jumped in and tore open walls and flooring where the house had warmed, and they were able to put it out.

When the fire swept down her neighborhood, it burnt her yard, a tree in her front yard, inside walls of her house, the fence and a portion of her balcony.

Throughout the time of More’s displacement, she has received a lot of support from the community, “I’ve had a lot of support from friends and family. I’ve been getting a lot of clothes, just stuff I pretty much need to live,” she remarked.

During the five-week break, More was really bored and wished she could see teachers and friends again. However, it was good to have that time off because she has asthma and it would be difficult for her to breathe due to the smoke.

More’s family won’t be able to be back at their house for another six months or so “because of the smoke damage and replacing everything,” More said.

The next step is just restoring her home.


“Before the fire, I used to take life for granted.”

It never seemed imaginable that a natural disaster so devastating could ever occur in her hometown. Previous to the Thomas Fire, “hearing the stories away from Ventura that there was a mass shooting or a fire happening, I would’ve been like ‘oh that sucks’ and go on with my life.”

Now experiencing it first hand, or so close to home, “it’s really scary, ’cause I know what [they’ve] been through,” More said.

One year later and “it’s all happening again, it’s like a ‘flashback’” she remarked. However, we are still “Ventura Strong” and have grown as a community throughout the year.



Community. Something so important when going through a disaster like the Thomas Fire. It’s different for everyone, but More believes her neighborhood is there for one another, even more now. Her neighbors ask questions like “Are you okay, or do you need something?” and have been more willing to help each other.

Her relationship with her family has grown closer since the fire. They’re there for each other especially “now [with] the fires in LA and Thousand Oaks,” More said.

However, unlike last year, she’ll be more prepared. She feels like she’s gained somewhat “survival hacks” and is more aware of the possibility that “it can happen again,” More explained.

“It took seven months for us to get back in our house, for just one wall [torn down] and the smoke,” More said.

Insurance wasn’t the problem, but the process of removing the smoke damage.

“You could feel the smoke touching you.”

With the exception of ruined clothes from smoke damage, she didn’t lose anything.

“if my house would have burned [down], I would have been so upset about things that would have burned,” but not “like my life is over,” she expanded.

For the people dealing with the recent fires across California, she would say, “be patient,” it may take a while, but “a lot of the houses in my neighborhood are being rebuilt and a lot of them—probably like three—are almost done” with basic construction.

Rely on your neighbors, as “they’re also there to support you.”

Around the time of the Thomas Fire, “I was very stressed out,” worrying that the whole community could be lost and then that would be it, “life’s over, nothing [else] could happen,” More said.

Now, “noticing how everyone had helped each other, I realized that there’s a purpose we have in life that I’ve gained through the experience of the fire and noticing who I am.”

What do you think?