News from around the Ojai Valley

Thomas Fire benefit Sunday, Dec. 1, 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Ojai Art Center, 113 S. Montgomery St.

 web Dave May From The Fire
Photo by Dave May, from the book “From the Fire”
The second anniversary of the Thomas Fire will be observed at a Dec. 1 fundraiser at the Ojai Art Center.


Perry Van Houten, Ojai Valley News senior reporter
On Sunday, Dec. 1, “From the Fire” and Chabad of Ojai will host an evening of film, conversation and auction, at the Ojai Art Center, 113 S. Montgomery St. The two-year anniversary of the Thomas Fire will be commemorated at the benefit for people still trying to get back on their feet after the fire.
Admission to the benefit event Dec. 1 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. is a suggested donation of $15. To purchase tickets in advance or just to donate, visit
“The point of the fundraiser is to give back to people still struggling from the Thomas Fire,” said Elizabeth Rose, co-author of “From the Fire,” a compilation of stories and photos reflecting on the Thomas Fire, published one year after the fire.
“With all the fires since then, and now that we’re in fire season again, people are forgetting there are still people who haven’t recovered from two years ago. There are still people in Ojai who haven’t gotten permitting to rebuild their houses. There are still people who financially haven’t recouped their losses,” Rose told the Ojai Valley News.
Proceeds from the book benefited the Greater Goods Relief Fund, which has served the Ojai community since its inception immediately after the fire, raising an estimated $168,000, Rose said. “The Greater Goods Relief Fund, I believe, is the only organization that’s still giving distribution to Thomas Fire victims in the Ojai Valley. And December is their last distribution.”
Somehow, Rose wanted to help increase that final distribution of funds.
Enter Rabbi Mordy of Chabad of Ojai, who introduced Rose to the 30-minute film, “The Light of Fire.” “It’s about an American-Israeli artist who lost 40 years of his life’s work in a fire, and how his artwork after that showed the transformation of the light that eventually comes out of loss,” Rose said.
“Just watching this documentary, I said this is exactly what we went through. We’re a community with many, many artists. If you look in recent history, you probably won’t find a wildfire that affected so many artists,” said Mordy.
The evening will also include speakers talking about how, from the ashes, the fire inspired them to create something new. Lisa Casoni of the Porch Gallery will talk about the inspiration behind Beato Chocolates, while Karal Gregory will share the story of Ojai Spirit. Ray Powers will read from his book, “Simple Brilliance.” Artists Alice and Richard Matzkin will talk about the loss of years of their own work.
“There are many artists who are suffering and many individuals who are suffering. We want to let them know that we hear them. We’re here and we understand. We may not be able to replace what was lost, but we’re here to show that we’re still a community,” Mordy said.
Honoring the fire’s two-year anniversary is equally, if not more important, than observing the one-year anniversary, Mordy said. “Marking the second year has got its own unique importance, to show that this is not just an anniversary … but we’re actually still invested in it.”
Items up for auction will include the last signed hardbound copies of “From the Fire.” “I have two Thomas Fire books,” Rose said. “They are sold out. They will never be printed again.” Rose and co-author Deva Temple will receive a historic award next month from the city of Ojai for the book.
Rose says the evening will not only celebrate the inspiration and creativity that rise out of moments of tragedy and devastation, but will celebrate the community as well. “I think it would be really nice to come together as a community,” she said. “We were so cohesive after the fire. It was kind of lovely. It would be nice to all be together for a night.”
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