Evacuees gathered in parking lots, coffee shops while waiting to go home

Firefighters work to save a home on the 29500 block of Sequoia Road in Canyon Country during the Tick Fire early Friday morning. Cory Rubin/The Signal

While some were told they had no home to return to, others sat in coffee shops and shopping centers Friday night wondering what would be awaiting them when they got home.

Earlier that day, only a few residents remained inside the large evacuation zone. Much like a ghost town with only the sound of the occasional fire engine filling the emptiness, some residents walked their empty communities, speaking with neighbors over the phone about what needs taking care of at each of their homes.

“You want to grab everything and you want to save your house at the same time, but you can’t decide what to get,” said Christy Johnson, a Mint Canyon resident whose entire neighborhood had been evacuated. “My heart was racing, my adrenaline was going, it was hot, it was windy.”

Once the fire had gotten to close to her house, and her simple garden hose would be no match the flames licking at her neighbors’ back fences (which were made of plastic and melting before her eyes), Johnson said she fled down to Sierra Highway in order to make sure she could be close to the house.

Mint Canyon neighbors Christy Johnson and Maria Duran took care of their neighbor’s dog following the evacuation of their community. Caleb Lunetta / The Signal.

She and her neighbor Maria Duran had been able to make it back into their neighborhood later that night, after the Tick Fire had burned through, and were taking care of their neighbor’s dog until the owners were able to get back in.

And while Duran and Johnson were able to return home, hundreds of other residents waited with their cars at the corner of Sand Canyon Road and Soledad Canyon Road.

“We were evacuated at approximately 3 a.m. this morning, and we’ve been up ever since,” Dave Murrell, a Canyon Country resident, said Friday night. “It’s scary because this is scarier than the earthquake was in 1994.”

“We went to the Target on top of Golden Valley and we faced (toward the fire) to keep an eye on it,” said Murrell.

Murrell’s daughter, Ashley, had to wake up other members of her family and then attempt to find the house pets. Ashley, much like the stories of a few others standing in the restaurant-sign-lit parking lot, had been able to find her dog, but not the cat.

“We don’t know about the cat,” said Ashley. “From the newscast, we think (our house) is OK.”

Every parking space was filled in the Vons shopping center in Canyon Country. Some people smoked cigarettes, others finished off their fourth energy drink of the day and others ate food from silverware and plates delivered to them by family members who were not within the evacuation zone.

Wind buffets the canopy as a woman sets up a tent in the College of The Canyons parking lot in Valencia on Friday, October 25, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

Around 7 p.m. Friday, some neighbors located off of Sierra Highway were let in. Then, effective Saturday morning at 8 a.m., Tick Fire Incident Command approved the repopulation of all areas with the exception of Baker Canyon Road from Sierra Highway, north of Vasquez Canyon Road, to where it ends near 15142 Sierra Highway and Tick Canyon Road from Abelia Road to Summit Knoll Road.

“You work so hard to buy your own home or, you know, to pay your mortgage and all your belongings and everything you own … and you can only take so much and you don’t know if it’s going to be there when you get home,” said Jeff Dragitto, a Canyon Country resident.

Dragitto was standing in the parking lot on Sand Canyon and Soledad waiting to be let back in throughout the day and the night. He, too, was evacuated from his home at approximately 3 a.m. Friday. “It sucks to be away from your home for a day or two … but it’s a better feeling than never being able to go back home.”

As of 2 p.m. on Saturday, Baker Canyon Road from Sierra Highway, north of Vasquez Canyon Road, to where it ends near 15142 Sierra Highway has been reopened and residents can now return to their homes.

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