Residents in Santa Paula were already awake and alert when a police cruiser slowly drove through the area early Tuesday morning announcing mandatory fire evacuations.
At least one woman in a white robe stopped the cruiser and asked how close the fire was to the neighborhood.
“It’s coming across this way!” the officer told the woman.
Nearby, Mike Medina stood by the intersection, watching flames make their way down the canyon through a gap of tree branches and snapping a photo.
Earlier, when the fire broke out, Medina said he was returning home from work at Costco in Oxnard when his 73-year-old mother called him.
“She told me, ‘I could see flames in the back of our yard,’” he said.
Medina said he drove straight to his parents’ home, taking Ojai Road, just past Mupu Elementary School. When he reached their house he saw flames in the distance. The winds, strong enough to shove a person, picked up dust. He said he stayed with his parents until authorities issued mandatory evacuations, and then took them to his home.
He said it was important to reach his parents because his father is an amputee and disabled and needed help getting out.
Medina said a wildfire had burned down his parents’ home in the early 1980s. They rebuilt, but as he watched the flames while neighbors evacuated, he wondered whether his parents’ home was still standing. He said the last view was the flames approaching the home.
“To see it almost burn, they must be losing their minds,” he said.