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That's What Friends Are For

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One mom took in evacuees during the California wildfires.

firemen battle flames california fires evacuees

Recession Mama: Late Thursday night, I got a call from friends in La Crescenta, CA, who live close to the Station fire that has been raging throughout the mountains and foothill communities north of Los Angeles.

At that time, the fire had burned a couple hundred acres, but was coming down the mountain quickly. They wanted to know if they could stay with us if they needed to leave in the night. Of course I said yes, then went over to the window. We live a couple miles south of the area, with a broad view of the mountains out our front windows. I had been watching the fire during the day, but at night the leaping orange flames were so much more ominous. The phone rang again.

This time it was friends in La Cañada who wanted to bring their kids over so they would be ready to go quickly if they got evacuated in the next couple of hours. They also had a French exchange student staying with them, who had only been in the country for a few days. They came over with suitcases filled with what they needed for the next few days and what they would choose to save above all else. Pictures, of course, some clothes and jewelry, and some surprises -- the girls, 10 and 12, had each packed a bag themselves. A doll that had been their mother's (that she had forgotten about), dressy shoes, the school supplies that were purchased for the new school year that was supposed to have started on Monday ...

Over the next few days, our house was full of children, several dogs, and a garage stocked with what matters most to our friends. The fire has gotten much, much worse, having burned over 100,000 acres, but it has moved north and west, and most of my friends are now back in their houses. What did we do during those days? We drew the shades and watched funny movies with the kids. We went to the beach for better air. My husband said it was like the band playing while the Titanic was sinking, but I thought it was more like the scene in the movie where the mother is reading to her children as water is seeping under the door.

With young children, there can be no signs of panic, and things need to stay as normal as possible. With the older ones, we talked about what we would save, what is truly important. I think they know that what matters most is family, but there's always the fear that my son would grab his DS and Pokémon cartridge and leave his sisters behind. We're working on that ...

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