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When the house next door turns to ash: Thomas Fire survivors pick up the pieces

A cherub statue is unharmed despite the destruction of the house it decorated in the Clearpoint neighborhood of Ventura, during the Thomas Fire.
A cherub statue is unharmed despite the destruction of the house it decorated in the Clearpoint neighborhood of Ventura, during the Thomas Fire.
Sharon McNary / KPCC

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Crews are working to restore power and gas to the areas in Ventura hit hard by the Thomas Fire. 

In Clearpoint, a hillside neighborhood west of downtown Ventura, the hardware on a flagpole clanks in the wind. A pink polka dot ribbon flutters on a mailbox, indicating the burned house behind it has been counted. It's abnormally quiet for a Saturday, days after a wall of flames destroyed dozens of homes.

Paula Howell and her son Paul Winbury outside their surviving home in Clearpoint, a neighborhood in Ventura. Nearby homes burned in the Thomas Fire.
Paula Howell and her son Paul Winbury outside their surviving home in Clearpoint, a neighborhood in Ventura. Nearby homes burned in the Thomas Fire.
Sharon McNary / KPCC

"It’s eerie," says Paula Howell.

She's one of the few people still in Clearpoint. Her home survived, but those next door and across the street are piles of rubble and ash.

A mailbox in Ventura’s Clearpoint neighborhood has a pink ribbon with black polka-dots, designating the burned house behind it has been counted among those lost in the Thomas Fire.
A mailbox in Ventura’s Clearpoint neighborhood has a pink ribbon with black polka-dots, designating the burned house behind it has been counted among those lost in the Thomas Fire.
Sharon McNary / KPCC

Howell has a plan to help her burned-out neighbors, starting with making her front lawn a help center.

"We’re gonna line this up with shovels and picks and any kind of equipment they need to sift through their homes," she says.

She also plans to distribute meals provided by a local church: "We’re all talking, communicating more now than we’ve ever done in the past."

In the Clearpoint neighborhood of Ventura, homeowners gathered ceramic mementos from their homes, which burned in the Thomas Fire.
In the Clearpoint neighborhood of Ventura, homeowners gathered ceramic mementos from their homes, which burned in the Thomas Fire.
Sharon McNary / KPCC