Solano Community College Takes in Atlas Fire Evacuees

FAIRFIELD -- The sky over the city of Fairfield has an eerie, orange hue as smoke from the Atlas Fire traveled in all directions.

The threat so close, Fairfield residents are protecting themselves with masks and seeking refuge at the Solano Community College evacuation center.

"I don't know how to be an evacuee," said evacuee Grace Gitesham.

This is Gitesham's first time staying at a shelter. She and her husband arrived two nights ago to the Student-Center-turned-emergency-shelter.

"I didn't even bring my medication, anything. I thought, just overnight. Like camping. And I'll be right back," Gitesham explained.

But, that is not the case because her Suisun Valley home is in the danger zone.

While she, along with 50 other evacuees worry about what they've left behind, Solano Community College professor Dr. Rischa Slade says she's happy to open up her classroom to residents in need.

"My goal is to make them comfortable, make them feel safe, and let them know that we are here for them until they can go somewhere else," Slade said.

Community organizers say the whole idea is not to treat these evacuees like homeless people, but like guests of the community college. And that little bit of kindness, guests say, goes a long way.

"We were looking at a hotel to stay at. But we couldn't find one anywhere. So we are back here, which we should have come here in the first place. Because this is better than any hotel we could have stayed in," said Elizabeth Wade.

Wade is a former Red Cross worker - now evacuee. She says being on the other side of things has been an eye opening experience.

"It shows me what happens to people at the other end of it. I'm impressed at how calm everybody has remained here," Wade said. "You got a place to sleep. We've got food, we've got love, attention. It's been a warm, rewarding experience, and I'm hoping to do volunteer work for them."

Calm, perhaps because everyone is willing to help each other out.