Southern California

Sen. Kamala Harris Invites California Wildfire Victim, Furloughed Worker to State of the Union

Trisha Pesiri-Dybvik and her family were also affected by the government shutdown. She's an air traffic control specialist

What to Know

  • Trisha Pesiri-Dybvik, air traffic control specialist, lost her home in the 2017 Thomas Fire and was laid off during the government shutdown.
  • Pesiri-Dybvik and her family have since moved to a rental property in Camarillo, but have had to evacuate due to the recent rain storms.
  • The 2019 State of the Union address will be Tuesday.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris has invited Trisha Pesiri-Dybvik, an air traffic control specialist who lost her home in the 2017 Thomas Fire and who was furloughed throughout the 35-day long government shutdown, to be her guest at Tuesday's State of the Union address.

Pesiri-Dybvik's husband, Jed, is a Navy veteran and air traffic controller with close to 25 years of experience who worked without pay throughout the shutdown.

"Since the tragic loss of their home, Trisha, Jed and their three children have worked diligently to bounce back and reestablish a sense of normalcy in their lives, even amidst an unnecessary government shutdown that caused both of them to miss their paychecks for over a month," Harris said. "Trisha's story is just one of many stories I heard during the shutdown of Americans whose lives were upended and who faced those difficult days with strength and resilience."

Pesiri-Dybvik blames both parties for the recent government shutdown and urges them to put aside politics for the good of the country.

"Every day of the last shutdown," Pesiri-Dybvik said, "the system was less safe than it was prior to, so these critical layers of safety are being stripped away."

During the government shutdown, Pesiri-Dybvik's job was deemed non-essential and her husband's workload was increased to compensate for the furloughed personnel and 30-year low staffing shortage of air traffic controllers.

"As my family and I have begun to rebuild after losing our home in the Thomas Fire, the hardship we faced during the government shutdown and the looming uncertainty of another potential shutdown have added a further layer of stress to our already challenging situation," said Pesiri-Dybvik. "Further, as an air traffic control specialist I know that the shutdown eroded critical layers of safety within the National Airspace System and forced my NATCA brothers and sisters to show up at work with the burden of not knowing when their next paycheck would come."

On the evening of Dec. 4, 2017, Trisha and Jed were both at work when they began to hear news of a wildfire spreading towards their home in Ventura. The Thomas fire would become one of largest and most destructive wildfires in state history.

While still at work, the couple asked their nanny to evacuate the house with their children. Ultimately, Trisha and Jed never returned to their home, which was destroyed in the fire.

Harris has previously shared the family's story on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

They have since moved to a rental property in Camarillo, which they were recently forced to evacuate when heavy rain sweeping across Southern California threatened floods and mudslides in burn areas left by the 2018 Woolsey and Hill fires.

NBC4's Ted Chan contributed to this report.

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