By Joe Gutierrez, American Red Cross volunteer
Like the other residents at Jojoba Hills SKP Recreational Vehicle Resort in Aguanga, Ron and Sandra Daves were forced to flee from their homes after a raging brush fire, dubbed the Highland Fire, threatened the RV resort.
“We had seven minutes to flee Jojoba Hills,” said Sandra Daves. “We were able to grab documents, medicines, the clothes on our backs.” She also added that at the last minute she and her husband were able to grab two pillows and a quilt, and most importantly, their ukuleles.
The retired couple, who have lived at the RV resort for 30 years, drove to the American Red Cross shelter at the performing arts building at Great Oak High School in Temecula. The shelter ended up being their temporary home for five days as firefighters worked to contain the fire, which spread to more than 2,400 acres.
Often the Daves would leave the Red Cross shelter to meet with other Jojoba Hills residents who fled in their RVs and parked at a Walmart in Temecula or at the RV parking area at the nearby Pechanga Resort and Casino.
The gathering of the Jojoba Hills resort residents was helpful and relaxing, but Sandra Daves said on Friday at the shelter that they still felt the fear of the fire spreading.
“We had to reconcile to not knowing about the fire,” Daves said. “Not knowing if our rig was still there and not being sure that we had something to go home to.”
On Friday, some of the resort residents gathered at the shelter to be with the Daves and other shelter residents.
The tightknit group shared stories and played cards while waiting for official updates on the fire. When one of the residents asked about the Daves’ ukuleles, the couple needed no urgings to break out their ukes. Before long, the entire group and others at the shelter were singing along to a variety of folk songs, including “You are My Sunshine,” and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”
“It felt great playing,” said a grinning Daves, who added that she and her husband were grateful to the American Red Cross, Riverside County and the Temecula School District for setting up the shelter.
Later that afternoon the official word came that the road closure to Highway 79 was lifted at 6 p.m., prompting the group to pack up and head for the road home.
A smiling Ron and Sandra Daves packed up their ukeleles and waved as they headed to their car to finally be able to go home.