The regional park that Mark Nguyen and his family would hike in Tustin, California, is now burnt and covered in ash.
“It’s unfortunate it’s so close to home — it’s definitely more surreal than usual,” he said. “You hear about wildfires all the time but it usually does not affect you as much.”
A fire broke out in Anaheim on Monday and quickly spread in parts of Orange County including Tustin. Officials have evacuated over 4,500 homes, according to the Orange County Fire Authority.
The Anaheim Fire and Rescue department lifted evacuation orders Tuesday except for some houses in Santiago Oaks Regional Park. As of Wednesday, some roads in Anaheim and Santiago Oaks Regional Park remain closed. The department said it expects to fully contain the fire by Saturday.
Several UCLA students from areas affected by the fire said they were worried about their family back home.
Nguyen, a fourth-year environmental health student, said around 10 of his family members in Tustin had to evacuate and stay at his parents’ house.
“The hills next to (my family members’ houses) were black and ashy,” he said. “My family that lived closer had to leave and everything and my grandparents (are) old … (so) it’s a little worrisome.”
Nguyen was at UCLA when the fire started and said he found out about the fire on the news.
“I texted my family to see if everyone’s OK and they said (they) were fine,” he said. “My family that lived closer (to the fire) had to leave everything.”
Michelle White, a third-year psychology student from Tustin, said the street next to where her family lives has been evacuated.
“We were so close to having to be evacuated – it was pretty intense,” she said. “I wasn’t there but it was worrisome”
White added even though she had heard about a fire in Orange County, she did not think it affected her. However, her mom notified her that her family had almost had to evacuate.
“There’s often fires in the Orange County area but never so close to where I live, so I was shocked to find out from my mom how close it was actually to us,” she said. “(My family members) weren’t even sure where they would go if they were evacuated.”
Others students whose families lived farther away from the fire said they saw its effects.
Hannah Roberson, a third-year sociology student from Anaheim, said even though her house was not in the evacuation zone, a lot of the places she has visited growing up were burned down.
“I saw all (these) places that I’ve gone to … been burned down,” she said. “It’s weird because usually things like that don’t happen in Orange County.”
Helen Lee, a third-year philosophy student, said that while her family in Cypress, a city near Anaheim, did not have to evacuate, the air around her home is full of ash.
“It legitimately looks like doomsday,” she said.
Lee said the students in her younger brother’s elementary school in Cypress were kept inside during recess to prevent smoke inhalation.
She added it was difficult to explain to her brother why the sky was red and why the ground was covered in ash.
“It’s hard to explain why the fire looks that way,” she said. “(Young children) can’t fathom it yet.”