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Fire Evacuees Turn Into Activists To Keep Shelter Open

Sally Schilling/Capital Public Radio

Atlas Fire evacuees at the shelter at Solano County Community College didn't want to leave when they were told the air quality was too poor for them to stay.

Sally Schilling/Capital Public Radio

Dozens of shelters have been established around Northern California for victims of the many fires devastating the region.

One of the shelters is run by the Salvation Army at Solano Community College in Fairfield. Joyce Flanagan is one of the evacuees from the Green Valley area.

“I’ve been here three days and I feel it,” Flanagan said Thursday.

Many people put masks on whenever they go outside in the smokey air. It prompted dozens of emergency room visits in the area, including one from someone staying at this shelter.   

“They told us [Thursday] morning we might be leaving and I said no,” she said.

County emergency officials were considering moving evacuees because of the poor air quality in and around the shelter.

“I said I’m not going any further away from my home," Flanagan said. "I want to be as close to my home as I can so that when they say we can go back, I can go back.”

She decided to make a sign in protest, writing "HELL NO WE WON'T GO!"

“We're all children of the '60s, practically, all flower children," she laughed. "We said, 'Oh yeah, we were there, hell no we won’t go!'"


Later in the morning, Solano Community College President Celia Esposito-Noy gathered evacuees together for an update.

“I guess your sign worked, because you are not being evacuated,” she told the evacuees, who erupted in cheers.

Esposito-Noy said she worked with emergency officials to make sure evacuees didn’t have to move again.

“We have recommend that at this point with scrubbers and air filters, if they were brought into this facility, the air condition would improve," she said. "We were more concerned about people’s mental health at this point.”

It was a small victory for a group of people who have spent several nights in the shelter and are eager to go back home.

During the update meeting, one man told organizers he was very grateful for everything they had done, but he just wanted to know when he could go home.

Fire officials said the staffing on the Atlas Fire had tripled in the past couple of days, but with wind conditions predicted to be strong through the weekend, they are being cautious about letting people back into their neighborhoods in the Green Valley area. 

Sally Schilling

Reporter/Podcast Producer

Sally Schilling is a Davis native and a graduate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She has reported on redwood poachers robbing national forests in Humboldt County and the dangers of melting tropical glaciers in the Peruvian Andes.  Read Full Bio 

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