Firestorm: Surviving a Major Natural Disaster in a RV Part 2

December 2017 witnessed the single largest wildfire in California history. Expanding from a small fire into a massive firestorm the Thomas Fire blazed out of control in Ventura County eventually crossing in to Santa Barbara County. Multiple lives were lost including a firefighter and hundreds of homes, businesses and out buildings were destroyed. The following is our experience surviving a major natural disaster in a RV.

The following is part 2 of the story. Read part 1 by clicking here

We needed to get back to the RV in Ventura and we needed to get back there fast! Entering the 101 North at the 23 interchange nothing seemed to be off with the world. Traffic was still flowing, the power was on, and all was right in the world. It was this way until we crested the top of the Conejo Grade where the 101 looks out over the Oxnard Plain. From this vantage point we were presented with an “end of days” type view.

The entire plain below us was dark and in the distance, 10 miles away, was a massive wildfire that you could physically see moving due west. The flames, with dark communities below, looked as close as a campfire in your site. Vehicles were stopping on the roadway as the drivers became as awestruck as us with this view. Unfortunately we had been listening to the fire fighter radio chatter and knew there was no time for gawking.

A photo from the Conejo Valley looking towards the Conejo Grade

Descending into Camarillo our decision to skip fuel the evening before flipped from a good move to a vital flaw. The power outage was complete. No fuel stations were open! The darkness was deafening in its starkness. For reasons I can not explain there was zero electric lighting available. Businesses, homes, streets, stop lights… everything was dark.

Exiting the 101 at California St I made the right turn and, due to the darkness, drove straight through the first intersection. Nothing was lit and nobody was out. The town was quiet in the late evening with no vehicles on the roads. It seemed as though the town was unaware of the danger fast approaching. There have been a few times in my life when my gut was screaming “THIS IS BAD!!” and right now it was shouting loud.

We turned off Main St in to the RV park to be greeted by the park manager. Impressive that she was onsite and her calm demeanor was reassuring until I learned that she was not fully aware of the danger we were all in. She greeted us with a wave and apologized on the power being out “they were working to get it back on.” The air was now thick with blowing ash and smoke… the fire was here but not yet visible.

I responded in the most polite yet firm tone I could muster “you clearly are unaware of the situation we are in. The fire is here at the outskirts of Ventura, the fire department is powerless to stop it. You need to consider evacuating the park now. We are leaving.” She thanked me for the information in a way you would thank a hysterical child “thank you Johnny now go make your bed.” I continued “if you are not going to evacuate the park at least consider notifying everyone on site of the situation and let them decide”. We then pulled up to our RV facing a challenging question.

Read part 3 by clicking here

Did the Thomas Fire or its aftermath impact your life? Feel free to comment below.

Mark Koep is the founder and CEO of He is devoted to making camping easier and travels the country in a RV to support this effort. If you find this article interesting please share it with your friends.

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