OJAI, Calif. - The Thomas Fire destroyed more than one thousand structures and damaged even more - including many buildings at Ojai Valley boarding school.
One local business is helping the school get back on their feet.
Nearly 80 high school students were safely evacuated that night of December 4 when the fire hit, but many buildings on campus didn’t survive.
“The girls dorm, Grace Hopkins burned down, our science and technology new building, lecture Hall, and teacher offices as well as the outdoor shed were all destroyed,” said Zach Byars, the outdoor education coordinator at Ojai Valley School.
The outdoor shed was a tough hit for the private school. All of their outdoor equipment was destroyed, meaning that the students outdoor activities and trips would have to be put on hold.
“We put kids outside and let the outdoor experience shape them," said Byars. "They figure out ways to overcome adversity and also figure out way to challenge themselves. They set up a tents, stoves, and learn to cook for themselves.”
Ojai Valley School takes many camping, hiking, and rock climbing trips through out the year. When Santa Barbara Rock Gym heard the news about the equipment shed being destroyed they contacted their friends at College Outside. The Carpinteria company helps provides over 250 colleges with outdoor equipment.
“We were put in touch with Zach and he called us and said we are just trying to have our normal Joshua Tree climbing trip next week and we have no equipment for it can you help us? And I said that is what we do,” said Sarah Lockwood, CEO of College Outside.
It usually takes a month to receive equipment, but College Outside was able to get the equipment that Ojai Valley would need in just a day, and free of shipping cost. Students were able to help put the wildfire behind them and get back on the trail.
“Zach sent us a list of the gear that they needed," said Lockwood. "Everything from tents to sleeping bags, to ropes and first aid kits, and we were able to source that gear for them. We also worked with all the different brands that make that equipment and got free shipping. We made sure his students had an awesome trip at Joshua tree.”