Around 5,000 homes were evacuated and 3,500 remain in danger as firefighters continue to battle a brush fire that broke out Monday in Anaheim Hills. As of Tuesday afternoon, the blaze had spread over 7,500 acres and destroyed twenty-four homes and structures.
Many of those who were evacuated moved to shelters set up at schools and community centers. Among the thousands who were displaced by Canyon Fire 2, about two dozen evacuees found shelter at El Modena High School in Orange.
Lois Christine McPherson, an elderly citizen, expressed frustration when she wasn’t able to get into her home due to road closures in her neighborhood.
“I’m safe. But I didn’t want to be here. I wanted to be home, but they closed Santa Ana Canyon Road,” she said. “I’m putting up with it with as much patience as I can display.”
McPherson said she left important belongings in her home, including her hearing aid and her cat, Charlie.
“I do think the city of Anaheim, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross are doing an incredible job,” she said. “They’re trying very hard and I think people are exceedingly patient.”
Police told McPherson that officers would bring her cat to the shelter. Luckily, the temporary accommodations at El Modena include a designated room for animals.
The Salvation Army of Orange County, which sent aid workers to El Modena relief center, were also forced to evacuate Monday, said Kevin White, their marketing and public relations director.
“This disaster was a little more personal,” he said.
After evacuating children from the attached preschool and daycare center and waiting for them to be picked up by their parents, White’s crew packed their aid truck and went to the El Modena shelter to help out.
"It's always good to go out and serve others. Now all of a sudden we have people of our own flock to look after and serve and of course they don't care," he said. "They're here feeding everybody and doing their job and just ministering to others."
Alice Santos and her husband were forced to evacuate their home on Monday afternoon when the fire reached their neighbor’s backyard. The couple initially didn’t know where to go before learning of the El Modena shelter.
"We slept here but we really didn't get any sleep," she said. "People are friendly because we're all in the same boat. We're all worried about our houses, and what can you do? There's nothing you can do; you just have to wait until it dies down."
Tony Briggs, a communications director for the Red Cross, was working at the shelter.
“People are very tense because they don’t know the status of their homes,” he said. “A lot of them would just like to go home, which is understandable.”
Briggs said that the Red Cross has been providing food, toiletries, shower facilities and Wi-Fi to the evacuees to “make them feel they’re at home.” The community, too, has been lending a hand, he added.
"The community has just been outstanding with everything that they've brought and just wrapped their arms around the people who have been asked to evacuate," Briggs said.
By noon on Tuesday, firefighters had made progress, with 25 percent of the fire contained. However, residents at the shelter say the fire department told them they would not be able to return to their homes for at least another day.
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