CA Wildfires Continue Impacting CU Members and Employees

Wildfires at night

For nearly a week, six actively-burning wildfires have raged throughout Southern California, forcing more than 200,000 people in the Los Angeles and Ventura, and San Diego areas to evacuate.

More than 1,000 homes, businesses, and other buildings have been destroyed and another 342 structures and residences have been damaged so far. At least half of the fires are near containment and evacuation orders have been lifted in those areas. The largest of the fires, the Thomas Fire, continues unabated, however. It is now headed toward the Santa Barbara area.

Unfortunately, once again, credit unions and their staff have been impacted by the latest fires, including Ventura County CU, which had at least 10 employees evacuated from their homes and temporarily closed its headquarters due to unhealthful air quality.

“The air quality is better today in Ventura, but the Santa Ana winds are supposed to continue for three more days so we don't know what's ahead. We have all of our branches open today after shutting down three branches yesterday afternoon. It's been a brutal week,” said Ventura County CU CEO and President Joe Schroeder late last week.

Several credit unions in the affected areas faced temporary branch closures due to the proximity of the fires, power outages, or unhealthful air quality. Among those credit unions were Premier America CU, Unify Financial FCU, Pacific Marine CU, POPA FCU, Water and Power Community CU, and University CU.

CBC FCU had to close one of its six branches in Ventura. That location, however, also houses the credit union’s call center and consumer lending team. The team members were reassigned to other branches with minimal service interruptions.

“With multiple departments impacted by the branch closure, we were immediately placed into our “BCP (business continuity plan) threat level 2 procedures,” CBC FCU President and CEO Patrick Miller said in an interview with CU Times. “We established a ‘war room’ for constant monitoring, and to send updates to our board and team members multiple times per day. Our team members were calm, composed, and acted quickly to take care of our members. I cannot say enough about how well they have handled things."

Some credit unions had staff who were forced to evacuate their homes, including Ventura CU, Pacific Marine, CBC CU, Premier America CU, and County Schools CU. Fortunately, so far, no credit union staff has lost a home, though some CBC employees did report minor damages to their homes.

Credit unions also have begun offering resources and, in some cases, fire relief loan assistance programs to members who may have been impacted by the fires.

For latest information on the fires and the credit union community, please visit the Disaster Relief webpage on the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues’ website.

Credit Union staff and volunteers that have been affected by the fires can apply for a Disaster Relief Grant. Grant Guidelines and the Disaster Emergency Relief Grant application can be found by clicking here. Credit unions that are CUNA Mutual Group (CMG) policy holders can obtain additional insurance information and claim contact information by clicking here.

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