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Women, children evacuated from Sylmar shelter as rain soaks foothills




The gym at the Union Rescue Mission in Downtown LA has been used as shelter for some of the women and children evacuated from the Hope Gardens Family Center.
The gym at the Union Rescue Mission in Downtown LA has been used as shelter for some of the women and children evacuated from the Hope Gardens Family Center.
Used with permission from Rev. Andy Bales

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First, there was fire; now there's rain and mudslides. 

Flowing debris from the Thomas fire burn area has forced closures on the 101 freeway from Santa Barbara to Ventura. Three homes have been lost, and there are five confirmed deaths related to mudslides in the Montecito area, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.

Evacuation orders have been issued for SoCal residents living near several burn zones, including Kagel Canyon, where the Creek fire burned last month. 

Someone with first-hand experience with mudslides is Rev. Andy Bales, CEO of the Union Rescue Mission. 

On Monday afternoon, Rev. Bales evacuated more than 200 women and children from his other ministry, the Hope Gardens Family Center, located in the Sylmar foothills.

The Creek Fire forced them to flee in December. On Monday, he tweeted, "Here we go again."

https://twitter.com/abales/status/950491189358182400

He tells Take Two that he was at lunch when he learned of the evacuation order:

We'd just taped our radio show. We were enjoying a post-radio show lunch at Conrad's... I got a call that 20 sheriffs deputies showed up at Hope Gardens and told us to evacuate immediately. 

I ran with one of the moms to pick up her middle school student, and everybody else headed toward the mission. We all met up, and everybody arrived about dinner time and settled in with great attitudes. We encouraged them, and it's just been amazing to see the very positive attitudes. All the moms saw me as they left breakfast this morning and thanked me and were very cheerful. Amazing attitudes with all that they've been through in life and evacuating twice. 

Where were women and children taken? 

We took all of our senior ladies — so they wouldn't have to hang out in the gym with our kids and families — we took them to a hotel in Pasadena, and then we brought all the moms and kids that couldn't connect with family to our downtown gym. 

Steve Baker, our vice president of operations, went out and bought 122 air mattresses and everybody's on air mattresses and doing well in our gym. 

I really feel like the moms and kids feel like "as long as we're together, and as long as we're safe and warm, we're gonna be okay. And that's a wonderful attitude."

(Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.)