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As wildfire grows, some residents evacuate, others wait and see

Lillian Gaffney of Lytle Creek is worried about the status of her home. Gaffney has lived in her home for 46 years. She waits to hear news at a Red Cross evacuation center at Fontana Park Community Center on Wednesday morning, Aug. 17, 2016.
Lillian Gaffney of Lytle Creek is worried about the status of her home. Gaffney has lived in her home for 46 years. She waits to hear news at a Red Cross evacuation center at Fontana Park Community Center on Wednesday morning, Aug. 17, 2016.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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It was late afternoon on Tuesday, time for Lillian Gaffney's afternoon nap, something the Lytle Creek resident looked forward to every day. She took her pain medication and settled into bed.

Then came a knock at the door. Police.

Get out now, they said. Gaffney's daughter, grandson, granddaughter and great-grandson were also in the house. So were the families' ten pets - six cats and six dogs. They had one car and no time.

So she put on her shoes, got her family in the car, grabbed two of her smallest dogs - Precious and Lucky - and they all left.

"Hell,” she said. “That’s what it’s been like. Hell.”

Gaffney is one of the more than 82,000 people who have been told to evacuate their homes from the Blue Cut fire. The fire continued to rage Wednesday, uncontained, toward the rural communities of Lytle Creek and Wrightwood. More than 100 people from those communities sought shelter at a Red Cross evacuation center in Fontana, 12 miles south of the blaze.

But other residents have not left their homes. 

“We’re looking on the east end of our town. (The fire is) butting up to a tract of homes here, and we're watching it," said Leo Hordyk, a Wrightwood resident who spoke by phone to KPCC Wednesday afternoon. "We have a lot of firemen here at the bottom of this last ridge before it gets into the houses...It’s skirting around the east end of Wrightwood right now.”

Hordyk is the owner of The Grizzly Cafe, an eatery in Wrightwood. He kept his cafe open Wednesday morning to feed firefighters and police. He said he has lived in the community since 1984 and hasn't ever seen a fire quite like this.

“This is the first time I’ve ever been in this position, this close," he said. "The fire roars like a river, a fast-moving river. It was just roaring right up the hill. It was unbelievable to not only hear but then see the big Pinion Pines getting engulfed in flames."

Hordyk said other residents in Wrightwood have also stuck around. While many have left town, it was not deserted, he said. And with the wind blowing east, he was relieved, though ready to evacuate if it got much worse.

Miles away, at the Red Cross center in Fontana, volunteers passed out pizza, water and blankets, and they talked to people one-on-one about their concerns. Lillian Gaffney grew frustrated that no one knew the status in Lytle Creek. Red Cross volunteers did not have updates on specific streets or areas of the community.

*This story has been updated