Mourning Thousand Oaks Community Now Threatened By Wildfires

18 hours ago
Originally published on November 9, 2018 8:02 pm
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

In Thousand Oaks, Calif., it has been less than two days since a man walked into a bar and started shooting. Thirteen people were killed, including the gunman. And the city continues to grieve. But as residents mourned at candlelight vigils, a new source of misery has arrived. Wildfires burned through the hills around Thousand Oaks, forcing many to evacuate. NPR's Leila Fadel joins us now to talk about this latest turn of events.

Hey, Leila.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Hi.

CHANG: How is Thousand Oaks dealing with both the shooting on Wednesday night and now these fires? I mean, how much can a city take?

FADEL: Yeah. Well, I went to the family reunification center where, on Thursday, people were anxiously waiting to hear news about whether their loved ones had lived or died in this shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill. And today that center is now an evacuation shelter with a fire burning in the hills within eyesight of the same building. And volunteers from the Red Cross who were helping grieving families yesterday, today are setting up cots and food and support for evacuees from Thousand Oaks and cities nearby. So it's really a double whammy...

CHANG: Yeah.

FADEL: ...Especially in a place where so many people knew someone affected by the shooting on Thursday. That's what Dakotta Solomon, a high school senior, told me. She was dropping off supplies with her friends.

DAKOTTA SOLOMON: I haven't met one person who doesn't know somebody...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yeah.

SOLOMON: ...Who knew that was in the shooting...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yeah.

SOLOMON: ...Or somebody they know directly was there. Like...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yeah.

SOLOMON: ...It doesn't matter, basically, who you ask. Somebody is going to know somebody who...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yeah.

SOLOMON: ...Was affected by it.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Everyone has a connection.

CHANG: I mean, it's really had a ripple effect throughout the whole community, the whole area. Do we know anything about the shooter and why he did what he did?

FADEL: Well, at this point, we don't know much more. The Ventura County Sheriff's Office is now not only dealing with the investigation but now they're also trying to keep people safe from the fires that are burning. And what we do know is that the FBI has searched the shooter's house and his car, that he lived in a nearby neighborhood. So law enforcement says he probably knew about the bar. It's a popular bar, especially among young people. And

you know, Wednesday night was college night. So there was line dancing. There was country music. It draws a big crowd. It's an 18 and over place, so a lot of young people were in there that night. And as country music fans, some of the patrons were survivors of the Las Vegas shooting, which happened at a country music festival.

CHANG: You spoke a little bit about them. I mean, what more have we learned about these victims?

FADEL: Yeah. There's no official list that's been released yet. The medical examiner's office is expecting to do that when the autopsies are done. But we have learned about them from their friends and from their family. And among the dead was a college freshman, a Marine veteran, a young man who stayed behind to save others and, of course, Sergeant Ron Helus, who was the first to respond to the shooting and is seen as a hero for moving in so quickly.

I also spoke to the representative of the owner that owns the bar, Borderline Bar & Grill. And he says the owner plans to rebuild, to reopen. The bar's been around for a long time. So people saw it as, like, a safe place, a place for comfort. And many had gone there after the Las Vegas shooting to find that comfort.

CHANG: And unfortunately, I know, Leila, you have had to cover a number of mass shootings. Have you heard any anxiety from people in Thousand Oaks about how often these shootings seem to be happening?

FADEL: Yes. I heard a lot of anxiety and especially if you think about the fact that many of these - or not many but some of these people are now survivors of more than one mass shooting. Among the dead was one man, Telemachus Orfanos, and we did speak to his family. He was 27, a survivor of Las Vegas. And they are furious that their son went through not one but two mass shootings in his lifetime.

CHANG: Just incredible.

FADEL: And including the Pittsburgh shooting about two weeks ago, the Gun Violence Archive says there's been 13 mass shootings in two weeks.

CHANG: That's NPR's Leila Fadel.

Thank you so much, Leila.

FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.