Evacuees take shelter
Sitting in her Minnesota Street office Wednesday morning, Michele Cowee’s mind kept wandering to her Kings Canyon home.
“I’m sitting here thinking of everything up there,” she said. “It is kind of hard to think you might lose it all.”
When she left the house around 8 a.m., she figured the fire would soon be under control.
Shortly after 9:30 a.m., she received a phone call from her 23-year-old stepdaughter, Amanda, saying the homes were being evacuated.
In a series of calls, she directed Amanda to the photo albums around the house and wrestled in her mind what other things to take.
“Of course you want the pictures,” she said. “But there’s other little things you could never replace.
“But things are just things, and photos are memories.”
And ultimately, “the family is most important,” she reasoned.
A little before 10:30 a.m., she instructed Amanda to join her at the office.
“Just lock up and hope for the best,” she said before hanging up the phone.
Around that same time, Katy Kendall also left her house and drove to the evacuation center at Fritsch Elementary School.
Red Cross volunteers set up activities for children in the school’s gymnasium and served dinner to evacuees between 4 and 6 p.m. As many as 500 homes were threatened during the day.
“We can call in nurses to help, if necessary,” explained Caroline Punches, executive director of the Sierra Nevada chapter. “We can basically provide anything they need.”
The evacuation center was later moved to Carson High School, where cots were set up.
Red Cross spokeswoman Donna Brand said the public can help by donating money or volunteering for the organization.
“We’re working closely with the Salvation Army and FISH,” she said. “So people can donate to those.”
Kendall’s husband called in the fire at 3 a.m., when he got up for work.
“When he woke me up, it was just a little line of black smoke,” she said. “I thought it was controlled.”
She went back to bed. By the time she woke up again at 6 a.m., she could see it was not under control.
“I’ve been watching it all morning, and it’s just been getting bigger and bigger.”
While others waited in their homes after the evacuation order, Kendall said she left right away with her children Drew, 10, Kacey, 5, and Dani, 4.
“With the kids and a cat and a dog, you just have to go,” she said. “My whole car is full of photo albums.”
As firefighters continued to combat the blaze on top of the hill, homeowners tried to remain hopeful.
“It’s kind of scary, but I like to be an optimist and think they’re going to get it all under control,” Cowee said.
Contact Teri Vance at email@example.com or at 881-1272.