OJAI, Calif. - Water was shut off at several homes in Ojai on Tuesday. The Casitas Municipal Water District says people weren't paying their bills, but those residents say it was all due to the Thomas fire.
Holly Humphrey is one of many residents returning home after being evacuated due to the Thomas Fire.
“I don’t even know where my bills are. Luckily I found this bill and I realized it was a day late, but they are still going to charge me a late fee after all of this that we have gone through with the evacuation,” Humphrey said. “I really do feel like they should be a little more compassionate and caring for what we have all gone through."
Vienna St. George is another Ojai resident who says she never even received a bill or a notice. The water district came to her house on Tuesday ready to shut off her water.
“It’s not right. We are all in a state of emergency. We are still dealing with trauma and everyone is sick. We need our water," St. George said. "For them to deny us that is criminal as far as I am concerned.”
The Casitas Municipal Water District says the issue is just a misunderstanding. The water district purchased Golden State water company back in June and are sending out the first bills as the new owners.
The district says the first bill went out on October 31, giving customers nearly a month to pay the bill before the water was shut off.
“They had plenty of time to pay for this water service," said Denise Collin, Accounting Manager at Casitas Municipal Water District. "We notified people with hang tags that we were going to turn them off last Wednesday.”
Those now living without water say the Thomas Fire created problems beyond their control. Many saying they couldn't work and had to evacuate because of the poor air quality. They say they just need time to get back on their feet.
“A lot of people have still stayed away because of health reasons and now they are starting to come back because it is after the holidays and they are coming back and their water is shut off," St. George said. "A lot of people were saying that they got shut off notices during the fires and during the evacuation periods so it is just all around unethical.”
“The bill that we prepared was well before the fires and was due well before the fires," said Collin. "We are here to work with people. We want to help the people, but it appears that they are getting some wrong information and that they are venting. I just encourage for people to call us.”