For Red Cross volunteers and staff in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, the first weekend in May was not an opportunity to relax and refresh. Fire season in California is usually a summer worry. But, when the Springs fire broke out at the end of last week, it was a rude awakening to what is anticipated to be a hard summer for firefighters and the Red Cross.
On the morning of May 2, at the request of County Fire incident commanders, American Red Cross responders set up shelters in Camarillo, Thousand Oaks and Malibu to house evacuees affected. The shelters gave those fleeing the fire an added choice of where to stay—at the shelter, with friends and family, hotels, or their own vehicles.
Red Cross shelter workers welcomed a total of at least 150 people at the Calvary Community Chapel in Camarillo, Thousand Oaks Community Center, and Malibu High School. For the next 48 hours, 58 volunteers from Los Angeles joined the efforts of those in Ventura to stay one-step ahead of the fire and the needs of people evacuated. All three shelters closed by Saturday evening, May 4, as local officials allowed residents to return home. The fire has burned 28,000 acres.
For a number of people, the shelter in Malibu was a welcome haven:
...A grandfather with his two young grandchildren waited for the cordoned-off stretch of Pacific Coast Highway to reopen to traffic so they could meet up with the children’s parents
…Owners of a recreational vehicle opted to park and wait at the Malibu shelter, where they joined shelter workers and fellow evacuees for dinner and took advantage of the shower facilities.
...One longtime area resident spent the night at the shelter while her dog slept in a safe place nearby. She decided to return home after dinner but was comforted in knowing she could return if officials still did not allow residents to return to mandatory-evacuation areas.
...The shelter also welcomed a visitor from China spending a few days with his sister and brother-in-law in the area. He stayed at the shelter while his relatives decided to try to defend their home. The gentleman showed shelter workers his credentials as a Red Cross volunteer in his country. Fluent in Mandarin, he practiced speaking English chatting with shelter workers.
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