Thomas Fire Destroys Ventura Mental Health Hospital

Administrators were forced to evacuate Vista del Mar Hospital, a mental health facility that treats patients with behavioral and addiction issues.
Published: December 6, 2017

A Ventura mental health hospital is among the more than 150 structures in southern California that have been destroyed by the rampant Thomas Fire.

Vista del Mar Hospital officials were forced to evacuate its patients and staff members on Monday. By Tuesday, two buildings on the 16-acre lot were completely destroyed.

Firefighters attempted to put out the fire but were forced to abandon the job. One of the hospital’s roofs collapsed as reporters and photographers watched, reports CBS.

The hospital treats adolescents and adults struggling with behavioral health issues and addiction. It also specializes in treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans, according to the LA Times.

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The hospital serves an estimated 80 patients at a time and has around 230 employees.

Administrators were forced to evacuate to the nearby Ventura County Fairgrounds. Roll call was conducted and all patients and 20 staff members were accounted for, according to the VC Star.

Sandy Case, who lives next to the hospital, says her husband, Roger, is on the advisory board. The elderly couple says they saw patients being escorted to cars by hospital staff.

“There’s a huge need for this facility,” says Roger Case, adding that the hospital takes patients from afar, ranging from Fresno to the San Fernando Valley.

Patients and staff spent the night on cots at the fairground as administrators began the search for facilities that could take the patients. Some patients wore masks to protect themselves from the smoke and flying ash.

By Tuesday morning, all patients were placed in beds at several hospitals in surrounding areas.

Roger Case says Jenifer Nyhuis, the hospital’s CEO, texted him to say that the facilities will be rebuilt.

Nyhuis says her staff responded professionally and purposefully during the evacuation.

“This team is so strong. We’re dedicated to this community. We go from here.”

Thomas Fire Devastates Southern California

The Thomas Fire started Monday night and has burned 50 square miles and forced the evacuation of over 27,000 residents, according to Newsweek.

The Ventura County Fire Department says the wildfire is zero percent contained and is moving quickly through the region. One firefighter has been injured while trying to extinguish the flames.

The National Weather Service says winds reaching 40 to 60 miles per hour are spreading the fire at an alarming rate and knocking down power lines and trees.

A second wildfire named the Creek Fire has burned three square miles so far.

“The prospects for containment are not good,” says Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen. “Really, Mother Nature is going to decide.”

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