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    Posted May 18, 2014 by
    Carlsbad, California
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    California wildfires

    CAStrwbryGrl and 14 other iReporters contributed to Open Story: Southern California wildfires
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    Becoming an Evacuee


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     CAStrwbryGrl and her family evacuated their home in Carlsbad, California, on May 14, when they learned that one of the wildfires was approaching dangerously close to their area. She says she was more nervous for her neighbors though. ‘I knew that the winds were blowing westward and the fire had rapidly moved in that direction,’ she said. But she was also imagining what it would like to try to keep her three kids calm while they were away from their home. Thankfully, she and her family only spent half a day evacuated before they were able to return home.
    - Jareen, CNN iReport producer

    I've always wondered what I'd take if an emergency took place and it all came true on Wednesday. At about 10:40 am, I turned on the local news to watch another part of the county that is known to be in a fire zone. And suddenly I see a live stream of trees and brush on fire that is just two blocks from my house. So quickly I called my husband at work and decided to pack up my twin preschoolers and 18 month old baby and go somewhere. Somewhere unknown. I told my girls that we were going to lunch-- NOW- and they had to get their clothes and shoes on ASAP. I spent the next 10 minutes gathering photos and mementos, computers, and documents. Having never done this before, it was all a guess as to what is really important. I learned later that my husband really didn't care that I saved his military medals and uniform but wanted his harddrive backup system.

    We headed to Starbucks; with its free wifi and free refills for loyalty card holders. We were located near a sandwich shop and a Walmart, which seemed strategic if we needed to buy supplies.

    During our wait at Starbucks, my girls went through at least 4 refills of iced tea and were very happy when the senior barista brought over paper, stickers, and markers to create artwork.

    We sat for hours and watched people stream in from all over North County, sharing their stories. One family was watching the news as their condo on Ambrosia Lane went up in flames. They were calm, composed, and didn't seem upset, almost as if they weren't thinking about the emotional loss but just what were the immediate steps ahead.

    We met other families with children clutching their teddy bears and blankets, as they ran around outside with a nervous energy that just didn't seem to stop.

    At 6:30 pm, my husband met us and we headed over to a local shelter. Surprisingly, it was almost completely devoid of evacuees. There were just 3-4 families there, happy to munch on fresh dinners brought by local restaurants and wondering what is next.

    By 8:30 we decided to take up a friend's offer to stay at her house. And we hoped to stop by our own house to pick up a change of clothes and toothbrushes.

    We checked and and drove through the eerily empty streets and hatched a plan to get into our neighborhood via a side street, in the event that there were still street closures in effect. Surprisingly, all streets were open, and we drove by neighbors who were quietly placing their trash cans in the street for routine pick-up the next morning. We arrived home and gratefully to an untouched house and happy to lay our heads in our own bed.
    Thank God that we were evacuated for less than a day. I pray for those families who are still waiting to learn if their home is still there and still waiting to get clean changes of clothes and the everyday essentials. I am thankful to the Red Cross who organized a safe place to be, along with food and medical care. We are thankful for the small teddy bears that my girls were given which will forever memorialize our experience away from home.
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