Billie Rainbird

Billie Rainbird – United Way of Ventura County rental assistance

Startled by loud bang at the front door of her Ojai home, Billie Rainbird found a neighbor outside, there to warn her of the fast approaching Thomas Fire.

“It felt like someone hit me in the stomach, and I just bolted into action,” said Rainbird, a local singer and songwriter.

She raced around her house and home recording studio, gathering her things and piling bags into the back of the car. She grabbed photo albums, diaries, and most importantly, her beloved 19-month-old puppy, Bear.

Unable to return until mid-December, Rainbird found her home completely burned to the ground. But through United Way of Ventura County, Rainbird received two months of rent from the Thomas Fire and Flood Fund to help her through the tumultuous time.

“It really took a lot of weight off my shoulders because I haven’t been able to work since the fire, and I haven’t been able to replace anything,” she said. “It’s like a huge sigh of relief. I can relax and focus on where my next step will be.”

Following the evacuation on Dec. 4, Rainbird first drove to a local hotel that allowed pets, only to be warned she would have to travel further to escape the fire. After stopping by another hotel in Ventura and finding it without power, Billie headed further south and stayed with friends in Sherman Oaks and Woodland Hills. When she was finally able to return to Ojai, she tragically found her home “incinerated.”

“There was nothing left but a foot of ash where the house stood, and the car was a melted carcass,” she said.

Fortunately, Rainbird’s neighbors across the road had an undamaged rental unit where they let her stay along with Bear.

“I was very fortunate because the yard is large and fenced,” Rainbird said. “To find a place that would accept a dog, let alone a large one, was next to impossible. It’s difficult to stay across the road where your life was turned into ashes but I have no complaints because there are a lot of people that were unfortunately worse off.”

She added, “I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to give to organizations like United Way because you never know when tragedy is going to fall on you.”

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