Former Hawaii Kai residents the Evoras -- Erin, left, Kamala, Sean and Darryl -- fled their Scripps Ranch home Monday.
Former isle residents cope with chaotic situation in California
STORY SUMMARY »
From Malibu to San Diego, college students from Hawaii and former isle residents have been enduring the confusion and fear that have engulfed Southern California.
Several contacted by the Star-Bulletin were among the estimated 1 million people evacuated from the firestorms. While they are safe and their homes have been spared, they describe an ongoing odyssey.
"You can't even see the sun. It's like a big cloud over the city," said Carmen Bugawisan, a former Kalihi Valley resident who lives in Spring Valley east of San Diego.
FULL STORY »
Former Hawaii Kai resident Darryl Evora watched as a wildfire raged about two miles from his Scripps Ranch home Monday morning.
Within three hours, Evora, his wife, their two children and their neighbors were ordered to evacuate.
"It's just crazy," Evora said during a phone interview yesterday.
His wife grabbed his suitcase, which was still packed because he had just returned from a surfing trip to Oahu, and other personal items such as important documents, toiletries and photo albums.
The couple headed to a hotel with their two children. Evora said they got the last available room.
Evora said Scripps Ranch residents were allowed to return to their homes yesterday after an announcement by Mayor Jerry Sanders. Strong Santa Ana winds slowed to 20 to 35 mph yesterday from 40 to 60 mph the previous day.
Some former Hawaii residents living in Southern California call the wildfires the worst they have seen. So far, they are safe but must endure the heavy smoke and ashes from more than a dozen wildfires.
"You can't even see the sun. It's like a big cloud over the city," said Carmen Bugawisan, a former Kalihi Valley resident and older sister of Hawaii singer Sonya Mendez.
Bugawisan, 65, who moved to Spring Valley in 1967, said strong Santa Ana winds blew the wildfire toward her home during the early morning hours yesterday. The fire seemed close, she said, estimating that it was about five miles away.
But the winds have since calmed down.
"We're doing well. We had quite a scare this morning," she said.
Bugawisan, membership chairwoman of Hui o Hawaii of San Diego, said members are calling each other to make sure that they are safe.
While families like the Evoras were warned by the evacuation call made to residents' land lines, those without conventional telephones are relying on other means of communication to find out whether they need to evacuate.
Mio Salcedo, 32, a former Kaimuki resident who lives in the University Towne Center in San Diego, is depending on the Internet and television news for evacuation notices. Salcedo said she and her husband, George, have cellular phones.
She and her husband already packed up photo albums, toiletries and important documents. Salcedo, a client associate of Merrill Lynch, said her employer booked rooms at the W Hotel in case employees need a place to go.
Christopher "Tiff" Wells, a senior majoring in telecommunications at Pepperdine University in Malibu, said he and other students split into two groups early Sunday when they were forced to evacuate to the cafeteria and fieldhouse from their residential halls.
Wells, a 2004 graduate of 'Iolani School who is from Kailua, said he was asleep Sunday morning when he was awakened by banging sounds. He and his roommate thought the sounds were caused by the strong wind gusts blowing against their front door. But when Wells went to check, a fire official was standing at the door ordering them to leave.
"It's pretty overwhelming," Wells said.
Wells, son of Star-Bulletin sports reporter Cindy Luis and a member of the university's Hawaii Club, said students were allowed to return to their apartments and dorms several hours later. About 100 members of the 2,800-undergraduate student body at Pepperdine are from Hawaii.
The mood on campus mellowed yesterday compared with the confusion Sunday, he said. "Our school is one of the safest places in the area."
About 500 firefighters stayed in the university's gymnasium for the past couple of nights. Classes were canceled Monday and yesterday but were to resume today.