Reporter's Notebook: 7 on Your Side reporter reflects on his hometown burning

(Photo, Nathan Baca) 

The following is a personal reflection by 7 on Your Side investigative reporter Nathan Baca

Today, I cling to television, the internet, any update on the Thomas Fire destroying parts of my hometown, Ventura, California. I pour through maps, trying to decipher whether neighborhoods I once knew as a child are ash and rubble.

I now live in a city replete with monuments to great people and epic times. Ventura’s quality is that time seemed to stand still, suspended in with a gentle Pacific Ocean wind that blanketed the coastal city with fog until noon most mornings. Granted, time seems to move slower those first 18 years one one’s life – the years I lived in the “Poinsettia City.”

Nearly 20 years ago, I wrote a book about that place. I named it after a horse ranch in Casitas Springs. That place, that writing, made me into the man I am today. This morning, I do not know if the Westwinds Ranch remains standing. It’s owners, the McTavish family, vowed to stay behind and protect their barn, a landmark in the area since the sixties. Did it survive? Are they safe? Those are questions that I have little way to answer this morning – so far away.

As a journalist, it is practice to move a lot. Hometowns are a luxury few of us are able to truly enjoy. Part of me will always regret leaving my mother city, but I know it had to be done. However, today is a reminder that no matter how far one strays from home – its absence – its presence – remains an indelible part of my life.

My heartfelt wishes to those whose lives and livelihood remain in jeopardy today and through the week. May those gentle coastal winds return, and bring back to Ventura that timeless quality.

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