Students Scarce as SD County Fires Continue

Blog from UCSD: Oct. 24, 12:24 a.m.

Students on campus were scarce today, with bulk of the UCSD community leaving voluntarily.

School officials have not ordered any mandatory evacuations, though
they have shut down campus for the rest of the week. Scores of
students, either panicked by the prospect of disaster or looking to
start their vacation as soon as possible, left UCSD following notices
of campus closure that were issued the afternoon of Oct. 23.

John Muir College senior and Housing Adviser Stephanie Haight said that
she was planning a dance party with her remaining friends for the

“Now, especially that the numbers [of students] are low, we’re trying to combine for Muir-wide events,” she said.

At International House, Eleanor Roosevelt College senior and Resident
Adviser Danai Leininger said that only about 400 students were left on
his part of campus. The tentative figure of all students still at UCSD
is 6,200, according to Associate Vice Chancellor for University
Communications Stacie Spector.

“We were told today that there was a very low possibility of
evacuation,” said Leininger, who also is an editor for the Guardian.
“We’re in a good place right now, I think. Yesterday, we were trying
to tell students to stay put. Now, since the roadways are open,
students are being encouraged to leave but only because campus isn’t
running at full capacity.”

Rumors that began yesterday, when Southern California’s firestorm was
at its peak, fueled unfounded speculation about the fire’s proximity to
campus, Leninger said.

“The university is telling us to be prepared and keep in constant touch
with our residents,” he said. “We’re being told to not worry them,
because residents don’t know anything that us RAs don’t know.
Residents are speculating a lot, and it’s caused some panic. Some
people were freaking out when they were told to ‘pack a bag’ by their
college deans. But packing a bag is just like packing extra water —
it’s just a precaution.”

Some students complained about the communication provided by the
university. Many did not know Monday classes were cancelled until
visiting their 8 a.m. classes on Oct. 22.

"I don’t like how we don’t know the evacuation plan," said Leslie Murray, a Sixth College freshman.

Chad Mccain, a Thurgood Marshall College sophomore, also felt that the
initial response to the disaster should have been quicker. "We should
have been notified before Monday," he said.

Ricky Hu, a Thurgood Marshall College sophomore, expressed qualms about
the piecemealed information. “They should have updated us a little
faster with when we would have school off,” he said. “The day by day
notifications they’ve been doing make things uncertain."

By press time on Oct. 23, both McCain and Hu had planned on leaving campus for home.

Many of those that are still on campus are trying to aid the local
volunteer effort. A.S. councilmembers have coordinated multiple
donation drives, pulling in manpower from all colleges. John Cressey, a
Sixth College Senior Senator, is serving as the coordinator for ERC,
Thurgood Marshall College and I-House donation drives. So far tonight,
Cressey said, one carload of canned goods, toiletries, blankets and a
mattress has been delivered to a local Christian church “The Rock,”
with another delivery planned for tomorrow night.

“There are tons of volunteers,” he said. “The on-campus response has been very, very positive.”

Down at Qualcomm Stadium, a main evacuation hub for San Diego, members
of the UCSD crew team had come to help. Sixth College Junior Yo
Miyamoto, Warren College Sophomore Ryan Rhee and Sixth College Junior
Dominic Shidsaki are all affiliates of “the Rock,” and said that they
knew evacuees that were forced out of Sorrento Valley, a neighborhood
about 10 miles northeast of La Jolla.

And while the scene at UCSD was calm, San Diego residents more impacted
by the fires said they faced a much tougher experience in the
disaster’s midst.

Ryan Anderson from Lake Poway had evacuated to Qualcomm Stadium with
his three children, twin 8-year-old girls and a 17-year-old son, on
Oct. 22 at 9 p.m. Though there was a total evacuation of his area,
Anderson said he didn’t want to leave; it was finally the sight of the
fires that spurred him to flee. Anderson’s hand was burned, and his son
was hospitalized with minor burns to his arm.

“I just grabbed the kids and booked it out of there,” he said. “Didn’t bring shoes, wallet, anything.”

Anderson said that authorities told him that he would be able to return home on Oct. 24.

Thirty-seven-year-old Joy Stone from Rancho Bernardo was camping out at
an evacuation point at Mira Mesa High School when she heard news that
fires had destroyed her home.

“We’ve been told it’s gone, but I’m not going to believe it until I see it,” Stone said. “I’m all cried out.”

Stone said that the scene was surreal as she, her 81-year-old mother
and two cats escaped her home in Rancho Bernardo, a neighborhood about
25 miles northeast of La Jolla.

“Almost as scary as the fires was the ash,” she said. “We had to watch for other cars as we left because there was so much ash.”

But past the many lost homes and tragedies the catastrophe has created,
many of the evacuees still praise the voluntary aid efforts.

“People have been really awesome with donations,” said Joanne Yan, a
31-year-old ERC 1998 alumna and coordinator of the Mira Mesa High’s
volunteer tent. “There is actually a surplus. And we’ve actually had to
turn away volunteers.”

The shelter at Mira Mesa High, less than 10 miles from UCSD, has been
operating at full capacity with approximately 1,200 people last night
and all day today, Yan said.

Additional reporting by:
Alyssa Bereznak, Focus Editor
Danai Leininger, Associate Sports Editor
Matthew McArdle, Managiner Editor
Hadley Mendoza, Managing Editor
Sonia Minden, Associate News Editor

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