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UCSB opens doors as shelter for Thomas Fire evacuees - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

UCSB opens doors as shelter for Thomas Fire evacuees

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With wildfire evacuation shelters filling up in Ventura, UC Santa Barbara opened its doors Tuesday night to Thomas Fire evacuees.

"It was kind of scary driving. The whole ridge was burning, it looked like a huge snake devouring the land," said Grace Carter of Ojai.

Carter, her daughter, Abby, and their cat are currently seeking shelter at the university. 

"It's been really hard. If it had just been me, I wouldn't have been quite so frantic, but I have to make sure she's okay," Carter said. 

The Red Cross is helping the families that arrive at the gymnasium doors.

"The people who have arrived are in really good spirits despite what they are hearing with the fire going on," said Crystal Anderson, American Red Cross.

Evacuees Donn and Teri Smylie are just trying to keep their minds off the fire.

"So we are going to try to find stuff to do and maybe even read a book that hasn't been read in three years," said Donn Smylie. 

Despite not knowing whether their home is still standing, they are staying optimistic. 

" Well, you know you can't change it, you just have to make lemonade out of sour lemons," said Teri Smylie. 

Many evacuees are sharing stories with each other making friends in a place they never expected to be. 

"We've all been talking to each other. It's really nice to have other people's support so we feel like we are not alone in this," Carter said.

Red Cross volunteers will be working around the clock. For how long, no one knows.

"It all just depends on the fire. Until we get more updates from the firefighters, we'll be open indefinitely," Anderson said.

The Red Cross anticipates more people and families will come in as the Thomas Fire continues to grow. The gym at UCSB can hold up to 450 people.

Small animals are allowed at the evacuation center. They are held in a separate room and kennels are being provided. 
 

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