Some Oroville Dam Spillway Evacuees Return Home

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CHICO -- Dozens of evacuees have called Saint John the Evangelist Episcopal Church home for the past couple of days.

"The church are very good people. They've been helping, very great people," Oroville evacuee Billy Vavina said. "Your whole town gets taken away from you. Your home, our medications. Everything. Don't know if someone's stealing things out of our house. Or if it's underwater."

And their stay has been stressful.

But Billy Vavina found peace here too, along with his husband, parents, brother, nieces, and nephews and their six dogs.

"It was never a question. Just part of a God's larger family that we naturally welcome. So it was never a question," Father Richard Yale said.

There were those Chico residents, like Joyce Becker and her two small children, who just wanted to help, especially on Valentine's Day.

"It's a good way to show people that you love and you care about them," Becker said.

Thirteen-year-old Elaine Bera Aguilera quickly left with her parents and siblings and dogs from Biggs on Sunday night -- it was a scary time for them as they tried to quickly leave, but like so many they got stuck in traffic for more than three hours.

After more than two days at Saint John's, "I really wanna go home," Bera Aguilera said.

She will be there soon, now that all of these families are packing up, finally heading home, trying to get their lives back to normal.

"I like school, so I wanna go back," she added.

But school won't be open. Classes in some districts are canceled for the rest of the week.

Everyone here is grateful the evacuations were lifted, but they know they have to remain vigilant.

I'm happy that we get to go home. I'm still scared. I hope it doesn't come back down to this. But we're gonna keep things packed up, just in case we got to leave again," Vavina said.

And if needed, the church will stay open for those not ready or prepared to head back.

"We have made a commitment that we are here for as long as these people need to be here," Father Yale added.