CUs Close, Employees Evacuate as Wildfires Scorch California Again
For the second time in less than two months, at least four wildfires have destroyed homes, buildings, cars, and more than 80,000 acres forcing tens of thousands to evacuate their neighborhoods and communities over the last three days across Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernardino and Riverside counties in California.
At least six credit unions were forced to temporarily close some of their branches because of the threat from the fires or because of power outages.
Credit unions that closed branches Tuesday and Wednesday were the $473 million CBC Federal Credit Union in Oxnard, Calif., the $2.4 billion Premier America Credit Union in Chatsworth, the $2.8 billion Unify Financial Federal Credit Union in Torrance, the $633 million Water and Power Community Credit Union, the $223 million Popa Federal Credit Union in Cerritos, according to the California Credit Union League.
Late Wednesday, Joe Schroeder, president/CEO of the $835 million Ventura County Credit Union in Ventura, decided to close three branches until further notice because of air quality issues.
“Air quality is horrible and ash is everywhere,” he said. “There have been quite a few homes burned to the ground up in the foothills above downtown.”
Schroeder said that eight staff members have been evacuated so far, with “far more to come.”
Ventura County CU employs 155 full-time staff and 42 part-time staff that serve more than 78,000 members. The credit union’s branches have remained opened.
“The damage to homes in Ventura is tragic. However, the community is working together to help everywhere you turn,” Schroeder said. “I believe I have received messages from at least 30 CEO’s from California and around the US. We need a weather break to allow the firefighters an opportunity to fight back.”
In October, the Golden State’s deadliest fires ever claimed the lives of 42 people, destroyed or damaged 7,700 homes and buildings, caused $1 billion in property losses and displaced more than 15,000 people, according to California authorities and media reports. Several credit unions throughout northern California reported dozens of their employees and members lost their homes.