Flare-up forces hundreds to evacuation shelter
June 26, 2007
A constant stream of those told to leave their homes flowed in and out of the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Center on Tuesday night, as evacuees from all walks of life sought refuge and basic services provided by the American Red Cross, which transformed the center into a shelter for those displaced by the Angora fire.
With the faint smell of chlorine in the air, the shelter provided newlywed couples, pregnant women, young children and the elderly three square meals, basic medical services and, simply, a place to go.
“I left because my house was full of smoke,” said Theresa Crawford, who was glancing at news reports while keeping a watchful eye on her young son, Jake. “I have no family, no friends. All my family is in Australia.”
Crawford, who lives off Julie Lane in South Lake Tahoe, said she waited as long as she could before evacuating, going to the shelter early Tuesday morning.
While not thrilled with the shelter, she described the experience as “OK.”
“I guess it’s to be expected,” she said.
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Besides her son, the condition of her Tahoe Verde Estates home was Crawford’s primary concern. “Without that, I have absolutely nowhere,” she said.
She is not alone.
As of Tuesday evening, 320 families had registered at the center, including Jeff Ward and Kim Gazzigli.
“We just moved here a couple months ago,” Gazzigli said during a meal at the center Tuesday night. “We don’t know anybody.”
The pair ended up at the shelter after being startled by the sound of trees bursting into flames outside their house off of Emerald Bay Road.
“It sounded like a bomb, that’s how close it was,” Gazzigli said. “It was pretty scary.”
An orange glow visible through the thick smoke outside of their home added to the urgency of the situation.
The pair grabbed clothes, important documents and camping equipment before heading to the shelter on Tuesday afternoon.
Red Cross and recreation center staff can provide daytime services for 350 people and overnight services for 700.
“If the need arose to take more people, we would do so if they couldn’t find another place to stay,” said Amber Beck, spokeswoman for the Red Cross.
Approximately half a dozen people stayed overnight at the center on Monday night.
Red Cross staff were unsure how many intended to spend the night on Tuesday, although Tuesday’s evacuations will likely increase the number of people staying at the shelter.