Students evacuate throughout southern California due to wildfires

Evacuees travel to homes of friends, family for safety


Alex Goldbeck/Talon

Student photo from the fires

By Anusha Rao and Mina Jung

When the Woolsey fire arrived in the city of Oak Park Friday, Nov. 9, residents evacuated to avoid the flames that came down the Santa Susana Mountains toward their homes.

The fire was predicted to touch down in Oak Park at 11 p.m., prompting mandatory and voluntary evacuations that also affected surrounding areas. Many of Oak Park’s residents left at the first sight of smoke in an effort to be cautious.

“When my family and I evacuated, the fire was around Thousand Oaks, but we left immediately after we heard it was going to spread to Oak Park,” freshman Elena Yan said. “When word began to spread about a fire, we started to pack. We watered down the house and grabbed everything of importance.”

Students evacuated to all over southern California.

“We went to Anaheim because we wanted to go as far away as possible so we wouldn’t have to evacuate again,” freshman Merit Ghodrat said.

Numerous families evacuated to homes of close friends or family.

“I went to my family friend’s house in Pasadena because we have been friends since I was 5 and they are very close to us,” sophomore Khushi Diwakar said. “As soon as we told them of the fires, they persuaded us to go to their place.”

Some students said they were mindful of their pets as they evacuated.

The majority of those who evacuated said that returning home gave them piece of mind after being away for so long

“We went to Redondo Beach to stay at my aunt’s house because it was far from the fire and they had rooms for my whole family to stay in,” freshman Rachel Kang said. “When I came back to my house, I felt very relieved, calm and finally at ease. I was happy that my house was fine.”

Some Oak Park residents evacuated to neighboring cities such as Westlake or Agoura Hills. However, they were forced to flee again when those cities were placed under mandatory evacuations as well.

“I had initially evacuated from Oak Park to a friend’s house in Westlake Village, but a couple hours later, their city was under evacuation as well,” senior Akshata Vartak said. “At around 2 a.m., my parents decided to not take any risks and just go far away to Cerritos.”

While some nearby cities were forced to evacuate, select areas in Newbury Park and Simi Valley were still safe to inhabit.

“I went to my friend’s house in Simi,” sophomore Angela Johnson said. “We went there because we thought it would be the safest place to evacuate to.”

Overall, although many students said they were anxious about evacuating, they were relieved to come back and see their homes untouched by the fire. However, some also stated that they recognized others were not as lucky.

“Coming back home was like having a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. The smoke still haunted it, but everything was there and untouched,” freshman Lucy Anne Heine-Van Fossen said. “But it still hurt for all those who weren’t as lucky as my family.”

This story was originally published on The Oak Park Talon on December 16, 2018.