Local woman safe amidst California wildfires

LOS ANGELES, Ca. (WEAU)- An Eau Claire native studying at UCLA said she woke up to smoke looming over the horizon.

(Photo Source: VCFD PIO / Twitter / MGN)

A dire situation is unfolding in Southern California as firefighters struggle to fight wind-whipped wildfires.

Tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate, more than 83,000 acres have burned, and officials said it will only get worse before it gets better. The largest wildfire, the Thomas Fire, is burning in Ventura County, just northwest of Los Angeles. The governor has declared a state of emergency there. Fire officials said they don't know yet how many homes and buildings have been destroyed.

Only an hour away from the largest fire in the state, an Eau Claire high school graduate is in her 4th year at UCLA. The Memorial graduate Faith Seltun said they could feel the ash from that fire, falling on campus.

“I was joking around with my cousins earlier because they were all hoping for snow days with the snow that they got; and oh we got school cancelled because of fire. It’s very, very different."

It's a drastic difference on the west coast as flames continue to rip through Southern California and only an hour away from one of the biggest fires in the state, Seltun, is still feeling its effects when we spoke with her Wednesday afternoon.

“Even the ash from the Ventura fire was getting onto campus yesterday, so the whole streets were covered in ash. Just walking to and from campus, your eyes would just start burning with all the ash.”

Seltun luckily has not received the knock on the door others are getting.

“Every time someone knocked on the door we panicked a little bit thinking it was someone telling us we have to evacuate."

However, it's still hitting close to home as one of her roommate’s family had to evacuate their home in Ventura. This morning she also woke up to several alerts on her phone and text messages from family.

“I didn’t know how close it was at that point, I had to run outside and was like what’s going on?”

Several fires continue to rage across California, one breaking out near campus, but not close enough to evacuate.

“When I woke up you could see a huge cloud of smoke looming over the horizon,” Seltun said. “It was mostly just smoke you could see and it was really hazy.”

In the countdown to finals, the fire caused Seltun's classes to be cancelled at UCLA.

We didn’t keep her too long as she sat outside to talk with us, but she said it was very empty around town.

“Campus is really dead right now. You don’t see anyone walking around or outside. They’re pretty much telling us to stay inside because air quality is so bad.”

Seltun said they've been keeping busy Wednesday studying for finals. She adds if they are asked to evacuate, she has a good support network there, and will stay at a friend's or coworkers house through finals.

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