Neighbors come together during Railroad Fire; evacuees recall ‘terrifying’ moments

A man and his dog await news about his cats, possibly trapped inside his apartment building during a brush fire. By Michele Lutes/The Signal
Despite the heavy smoke and falling ashes, Alejandro Cervantes sprinted up Valle Del Oro Drive toward the Terrace Apartments, as the building was threatened by the 10-acre Railroad Fire in Newhall on Monday afternoon. “I didn’t care how many times I had to go back and forth for water,” said Cervantes, who lives on the same street where the blaze took place. He and other neighbors were seen pushing carts stacked with water bottles for both residents of Terrace and first responders. “Everyone on (Valle Del Oro Drive) is like a family,” he said, as he waited for others in need of more water. “We all look out for each other, and I know that water helps a lot.” Among the Terrace residents who received water were Sonja Bravo and Cesar Carrillo. Both described their experience as “lucky,” when the fire slowed down after reaching concrete between a burning hill and their unit just feet away. “I told Cesar that the sun was very yellow and something smelled like smoke,” Bravo said in Spanish. “We saw that the entire hill was already burned before firefighters arrived. We evacuated immediately.” Both were among several other residents who rushed out of the apartments with no time to grab important belongings. Bravo described the scene in Spanish as, “terrifying,” as she witnessed some neighbors crying and others begging first responders to check for loved ones inside homes.
A worried woman alerting CHP Officer Steve Mendoza about a possible elderly resident inside the burning apartment building. By Michele Lutes/The Signal
A worried woman alerting CHP Officer Steve Mendoza about a possible elderly resident inside the burning apartment building. By Michele Lutes/The Signal One resident, who wished not to be named, was seen running down Valle Del Oro Drive with sweat running down his forehead and a bloody finger. “I saw that part of the apartment was on fire,” he said of the flames that ran up the wash toward the structures. “I ran for my wife and my two cats. One of them bit me, which is why I’m bleeding. I’m just glad we made it out.” Alongside Cervantes were neighbors Raul Muñoz and his three young children, who were riding atop an empty push-cart as their father brought them down the inclined Valle Del Oro Drive. The locals had bought dozens of water bottles at a nearby Dollar Tree. They said they would stay there for as long as evacuees and firefighters needed water. By 6:30 p.m., just two hours before the start of the blaze, firefighters were in the mopping up stages. Joey Marron, Los Angeles County Fire Public Information Officer, said a damage assessment and a count of evacuees was underway. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.


About the author

Tammy Murga

Tammy Murga

Tammy Murga covers city hall and business for The Signal. She joined in the summer of 2018, previously working in Northern California as an assistant editor and reporter for the Lake County Record-Bee. In 2016, she graduated from Mount Saint Mary's University, Los Angeles. Have a story tip? Message her on Twitter or at