Students Affected by Silverado Fire Evacuations Carry Pieces of Home


Photo courtesy of Rishav Sen

Senior Rishav Sen rescued two of his most treasured possessions: his late dog’s ashes and a signed photo of Kobe Bryant. Sen remarked that as he left his house, “I brought most of the things I needed, but I almost forgot shoes.”

By Kate Hayashi, Portola High School

Over the years, students living in Irvine have felt minor effects of the wildfires that ravaged Northern California and surrounding areas: canceled sports practices and social media feeds full of fire updates. But when the Silverado fire hit the city on Oct. 26, and Irvine’s skies flooded with smoke and ashes, students were forced to choose which pieces of home to take with them as the Irvine Police Department issued mandatory evacuation orders.

As a resident of Stonegate, senior Rishav Sen was among the first to evacuate after receiving the emergency notification on his phone. His family decided to stay at a family friend’s home near Irvine High. According to Sen, he was able to bring most of the things he needed aside from his election ballot, which he plans to retrieve tonight as Stonegate reopens.

“I brought my dog’s ashes — she passed during quarantine — and my autographed photo of Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest from the 2010 NBA finals,” Sen said. “My dog was my best friend for 14 years, and she was there for pretty much all my life. For me, Kobe Bryant was a childhood hero … and for me his passing was an insane moment, which made for a turbulent month with my dog’s passing later that month.”

Senior Shishir Ravipati also had to evacuate from his home in Portola Springs at around 9 a.m. His family decided to stay at his cousin’s house near Los Angeles.

“We took about two days’ worth of clothes, toiletries, valuables and electronics,” Ravipati said. “I think we brought everything we needed, but we forgot to turn off the gas and electricity. The most important things I brought were probably my phone and laptop because they let me stay connected with people and updated on the news.”

Sophomore Jadyn Zdanavage was part of the second wave of evacuations as her home is in Woodbury, but her family began preparing as soon as they heard about the first evacuation order. Zdanavage ended up leaving an hour before the mandatory evacuation was issued for the Woodbury area. Her family decided to stay at a hotel in Carlsbad.

“I would say that the most important thing I brought of sentimental value was probably my scrapbook,” Zdanavage said. “I have a small journal where I print out photos of a memory and write down what happens. That is probably the most important because it contains not only photos of great memories, but handwritten small details that I don’t want to forget.”

With students scattered around Southern California, Portola High will remain closed on Wednesday. However, school is scheduled to resume with distance learning on Thursday and Friday.

This story was originally published on Portola Pilot on October 28, 2020.