While the Central Coast is not directly impacted by the fires in northern and southern California, worry is igniting within local residents who have family in the fire-ravaged areas.
“(The fire) moved it’s way down into the grassy areas behind our houses,” Mitchell Klein, a Cal Poly student said of his home in Thousand Oaks. “It was probably a block away and that’s a little too close for comfort. I had a friend’s house (that) was burned.”
Klein should be focused on his engineering assignments but his mind is hours south in Thousand Oaks, where his family is under threat of a fast-growing blaze called the Woolsey Fire.
“My mom has been adamant about ‘stay focused on school, you have a life up there, we’ll be ok down here, just stay focused on yourself,’ but hearing the stress in my other family members’ voices, it’s hard not to worry about them even though they say they’re ok,” Klein said.
Klein’s family was evacuated as the Woolsey Fire chewed through the earth around them.
“We just grabbed everything we could and threw it in the car,” Klein’s mother, Ellen, said over the phone.
Klein’s family has been allowed to return home but they know they could be forced to evacuate again – in a moment’s notice.
For the past few days, Klein has been hanging on every word his mother says.
“Starting on the night of the shooting, I’ve been on the phone talking to my family at least every few hours,” Klein said.
Separated by over 100 miles, news of the fires and Wednesday’s mass shooting are difficult for Klein to digest.
“It is hard to be away, it’s the anticipation, the not knowing how your family is doing, not knowing how your friends are doing or being there to support them,” Klein said.
For Klein’s mother, her son’s distance is a blessing.
“In my mind I was just thanking God that he was far away,” Anne Klein said. “Our community just needs time to heal, it’s just too much too fast.”
Klein said he’s found comfort in the fact that so many of his classmates have family in the affected areas and they help comfort him during this scary time.