Massive wildfires force students, teacher to evacuate homes

By Daniel Rothberg

The Station fire, which has so far consumed more than 150,000 acres and destroyed 76 homes, forced at least three students and one teacher out of their homes in August.

“It was definitely surreal,” evacuee Joyce Kim ’11 said. “I never thought I would have to evacuate in my lifetime and pack up all of my things.”

According to the Los Angeles County Fire Department Captain, the Station fire is the largest in the modern history of Los Angeles County, with flames reaching lengths of 300 to 400 feet.

Kim, who lives in La Cañada, found out that there was a fire on the morning of Aug. 27, but thinking it was not going to be a big deal, went out with friends. Later that evening, Kim received a call from her mother telling her to return home.

After packing the car, the family evacuated their home that night. Although the Kim family decided to leave before it was mandatory, they were still in the area when authorities called for mandatory evacuations. Policemen with megaphones walked up and down the street and knocked on doors when mandatory evacuations began, Kim said.

Only a few miles away from Kim, Alex Valdez ’11 was also in the process of leaving her home. Before the Valdez family began evacuating, they called the Sheriff’s office to see whether or not they had to evacuate. The Sheriff’s office told the Valdez family they were asking for voluntary evacuations but would not begin mandatory evacuations until later that night or very early in the morning.

Knowing they would need to leave anyway, the Valdez their her home in La Cañada at around 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 27. Valdez brought belongings that she felt were valuable, such as her own artwork that she had drawn in elementary school and middle school.

Across the canyon from Valdez, Head Upper School Librarian Shannon Acedo, a resident of Altadena, received an e-mail Aug. 28 from her community’s Fire Safety Council, advising members of the community that they should expect to evacuate.

“Friday night was the big anxious night,” Acedo said. “We kept waiting for the word and you could see the fire really close by.”

Acedo described the next morning as very quiet because some people had voluntarily evacuated. Nonetheless, Acedo learned of evacuations in the morning and left her home with her son on Saturday.

Marisa Berger ’10, a resident of Altadena, was also forced to evacuate her home. Unlike Kim and Valdez, Berger left during a mandatory evacuation of her neighborhood. Berger’s family found out they had to evacuate by checking online for frequent updates regarding the status of the fire. The Berger family evacuated midday Aug. 28.

Kim, Valdez, Acedo and Berger were all able to return to their homes before the end of summer break.According to Berger, when she returned home, her lawn was covered with ash and her house smelled. Additionally, Berger noted that a mountain behind her house that had once been full of trees was now bare. When Valdez returned home, she said that her bed was covered in ash, due to a window above her bed that does not shut fully.

Some students also hosted family members, whose homes were threatened by the fire. Jacqi Lee’s ’10 family took in her grandparents, uncle and cousins for two nights Additionaly, only hours after returning to their own home, the Kim family took in family that had


“It was hard because my grandparents were really thrown off,” Lee said. “We weren’t really sure what condition their house was in.”