The Californians with nowhere to go as wildfires rage – photo essay

The Guardian – Photographer Rachel Bujalski – Sunday 23 August 2020

Tens of thousands have been forced to leave their homes to escape the flames. Photographer Rachel Bujalski meets evacuees.

At the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, California, Michelle and Carlos Jacinto sat in their car at the fairgrounds to eat lunch and take a break from their designated temporary evacuation center. They left their home in Forestville two nights ago, as wildfires tore through the state.

They packed up the car with their dogs, pictures and important papers. Michelle and Carlos had come to this evacuation center last year during the fires, but they said this time was different: they were required to wear masks and keep distant from other people in a gymnasium.

Barbara Pagett sat in the back of her friend Kevin Denny’s car with her cat in a carrier after arriving at a temporary evacuation center at the same fairgrounds. They had just found out the site was open after having spent two days as evacuees. After they evacuated the first night and found the Petaluma evacuation center was closed, they were forced to spend $300 for two nights at a hotel.

Dennis O’Leary and his wife, Patricia, set up their sleeping bags in a park in Forestville, where they would spend their second night after evacuating from Guerneville.

“We didn’t want to end up in a crowded place and didn’t want to go too far from where we live and thought we could stay in this park. Everyone in Forestville has been really understanding, and they opened the park bathrooms for us and all the restaurants are close for resources if we need.”

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Posted by Teri Perticone


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