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Acton residents flee to Red Cross center

Golden Valley High hosting emergency shelter

Posted: August 31, 2009 9:00 p.m.
Updated: August 31, 2009 11:00 p.m.

Red Cross volunteer Stan Schwartz, right, looks on while another volunteer helps a man with paperwork Monday at the Red Cross emergency shelter set up at Golden Valley High School.

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It was 3 a.m. Sunday when firefighters showed up at the Soledad Canyon KOA campground to give the order: Evacuate.

James Whitmer, who lives and works at the park, packed everything he could fit into two suitcases, grabbed his dog and plenty of dog food, and hauled it all to a Red Cross disaster center set up at Golden Valley High School.

On Monday, Whitmer sat in the shade, puffing on a sweet-smelling cigar as brownish thunderheads of smoke rose from the northeastern end of the Santa Clarita Valley.

Whitmer, who has lived at the Acton-area campground for two years, was waiting to hear if the evacuation order had been lifted.

He marveled and how many recreational-vehicle owners at the park opted to stay put despite the evacuation order.

"It's an RV park," he said. "Fire that son of a (gun) up and leave."

The Red Cross set up the disaster center at Golden Valley High during Sunday's pre-dawn hours, volunteer Alex Castro said.

By Monday afternoon, 22 people from the Acton area had registered with the center, Castro said.

The center offers displaced people a place to sleep - with enough cots for 100 people - plus meals, drinks and health services.

The Red Cross is also working in conjunction with the Salvation Army, Castro said, and insurance company representatives have been on hand.

The center at Golden Valley High is the only one in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Becky Gayton, who also left her home early Sunday morning, said she has lived at the White Rock Lake Resort, another Soledad Canyon campground, for seven months.

"Nobody wanted to leave," she said Monday.

Sitting in the shade of the Golden Valley gymnasium, waiting for word that she could return home, Gayton said she left everything behind when she evacuated.

"This is what I have," she said, stretching out her empty arms. "This and my purse."



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