Lana Salameh, 45, had just taken her two youngest children to school and returned home to Irvine’s Eastwood ward.
The sky was dull orange, trees were falling outside, and smoke seeped into the house, but she had not been informed that the school was canceled.
She returned to catch her 9-year-old daughter Farah Abdelbari, whose tears soaked her pink mask at Eastwood Elementary School. Then she picked up her 11-year-old son Omar.
“They were afraid it wasn’t easy,” said Salameh. “My children cried, but we had to go.”
They grabbed their passports and some bananas before arriving at the Quail Hill Community Center, which was just reaching capacity.
The Silverado fire swept down from the hills above Irvine, threatening homes in the north of the city and prompting the evacuation of 40,000. Previously, firefighters had kept the flames away from homes and north of Portola Parkway, but erratic winds remained a major problem.
At the shelter, about 30 people sat at socially distant desks, and small dogs were tied to the tables. News of the fire was posted on many of the evacuees’ laptops.
Salameh’s children were taped onto their laptops to do their schoolwork.
Esther Lee, 55, and dozens of others waited outside in the parking lot for a vacant space.
When Lee looked outside her bedroom veranda on Monday morning, the palm trees swayed and a great cloud of smoke overtook the nearby mountains.
Her 19-year-old home on Portola Avenue in Irvine was hit by smoke and Santa Ana winds, and she started packing.
At around 9:30 a.m., she received a mandatory evacuation notice and quickly packed important documents into her two cars.
“We didn’t have a lot of time and I didn’t want to stay too long,” said Lee. “We only stay seated for the time being because the winds can be so unpredictable.”
She and her husband Jay decided to stay at the nearby park until their family members in Lake Forest had a plan for the day. They had their dog Katara with them.
Lee had been evacuated in the past, but today’s winds made her more concerned about the safety of her home.
Pat Grath, 78, was making breakfast when a stranger knocked on the front door of her Ridge Valley home to inform her of the evacuation notice. Grath has no family on the west coast.
“I just panicked, I started crying,” said McGrath. “I’m cold, I’m hungry, I’m stressed and I don’t know what to do.”
Her voice was weak as she leaned back over her seat in a beige cardigan.
“I was hoping there would be food or water, but I only got a bottle of water from a woman here earlier,” she said. “There is a fountain in the hall, but I forgot my cane and my legs are not working as well. I think your body doesn’t work that well when you’re stressed. “
The winch knocked out half-full trash cans and pushed them through the streets of Orchard Hills, a neighborhood in Irvine that is on the path of the Silverado Fire.
Smaller trees were almost blown from their roots. The neighborhood is littered with two-story stucco houses. Some are still in the construction phase. Almost all of them were evacuated, with the exception of one or two families who were still collecting their belongings before they got out.
Not far from Bella Garden Park, 44-year-old Raymond Siu was stuffing his Lexus SUV with luggage and other personal items.
Breathing heavily, he said he learned of the fire through police warnings on his phone and immediately prepared to evacuate.
“I feel rushed,” he said, running to his white Tesla before driving off.
His family, who sat in the white Lexus SUV, followed him.