As wildfire rages near Idyllwild, evacuees share fears and recount their escapes to safety

by in News

Twelve-year-old Angelo Amador won’t soon forget his escape from the threatening flames of the Cranston fire near Idyllwild.

With officials warning residents to leave as the fast-moving blaze spread, the Menifee boy and seven friends piled into the back of a Chevy Silverado on Wednesday with Pastor Tim Stroup of Palmdale’s Crosswind Community Church behind the wheel. In all, 16 kids from the church camp loaded into the pickup truck designed to fit fewer than half the passengers.

“The view was awesome,” Amador said of what he saw from the twists and turns on the Highway 243 descent.

Amador stood next to his parents, whom he met up with at an evacuation center at Banning High School.

The church group from Camp Maranatha in Idyllwild joined hundreds who poured onto the empty campus Wednesday afternoon.

Most at the school got water and headed for the gymnasium. Others waited in the parking lot and began calling friends and family.

Stroup, who drove the kids down the mountain, arrived around 4 p.m.

“We were extra slow because we had them in the back,” he said.

Idyllwild resident Stephanie Yost, who spent the day in Los Angeles, came to the high school since she couldn’t drive to her home. She wasn’t sure what how her four dogs and three cats were faring as flames raced through the area nearby.

“I hope my pets are OK,” she said. “I hope my house is OK.”

Yost said she wished she could have grabbed her photo albums, jewelry and her great-grandmother’s handmade quilt.

She said she was considering her next move, possibly a trip to Starbucks and to watch news coverage of the blaze.

As the sun started to set on the smoky skies, Linda Downey took her three dogs for a walk.

Downey, 65, said she has lived in Idyllwild for six months.

“I cried all day and I don’t want to cry anymore because I’ll ruin my makeup,” she said.

She said she wasn’t able to grab much beyond blankets and pillows.

“When things hit you like this,” she said, “your brain goes 90 miles a minute.”

She said she hoped to put her two Chihuahas and Maltese Poodle in a kennel at the center before processing what happened.

“Thank God that we’re alive,” she said.