East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current, December 20, 2017, Page Page 9A, Image 9

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017
East Oregonian
Page 9A
Long-term wildfire evacuees face holidays away from home
and Curry Sawyer’s Christmas tree
is up, still waiting for their grand-
kids to decorate it. The presents
are hidden away in closets, waiting
to be wrapped, the ingredients
for gingerbread men are sitting in
cupboards, and the kindling for the
fireplace has been chopped.
A monster of a wildfire burning
in Southern California froze the
Sawyers’ plans for a big family
Christmas and has forced the couple
from their Santa Barbara home for
nearly two weeks.
Even if their beloved home of five
decades survives the next predicted
onslaught of winds, the Sawyers
are preparing for Christmas in yet
another hotel.
“This is getting ridiculous,” said
the 82-year-old Curry Sawyer from
her hotel in Goleta on Tuesday.
“My husband has the feeling,
‘Why aren’t they letting us back
in?’ but they’ve got hot spots up
there and if we get more Santa Ana
winds, we’re going to be back to
square one,” Sawyer said. “I’m not
sure we’re out of the woods.”
The Sawyers are among thou-
sands of frustrated evacuees who’ve
been away from home for days
or weeks, living out of hotels or
evacuation shelters, or staying with
friends or family. Some have no
home to go back to while others are
just hoping theirs survive.
The Sawyers were planning a big
family Christmas with their sons,
who each are married and have a
daughter, and live in Los Angeles
and Amherst, Massachusetts.
If their home doesn’t make
it, or if a mandatory evacuation
remains in place come Christmas,
Sawyer said the family will make
do in Los Angeles. Her son’s home
can accommodate her other son’s
family, but Sawyer and her husband
would have to stay in a hotel.
“He had lost all of
his toys and just
thought there would
be no Christmas.”
— Georgia Duncan,
Red Cross spokeswoman on a
boy receiving a donated gift
Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP
In this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, CAL FIRE Inmate Firefighting
Hand Crew members hike through the charred landscape on their way to work east of Gibraltar Road
above Montecito, Calif., Tuesday. Officials estimate that the fire will grow to become the biggest in
California history before full containment, expected by Jan. 7.
“We’ll be more just trying to
cramp ourselves into a small space,”
she said. “But at least we’ll be
As of Tuesday, 432 people were
still staying at evacuation shelters
run by the Red Cross, agency
spokeswoman Georgia Duncan
The shelters are preparing to
stay open for Christmas and many
agencies are donating toys so that
the children there have presents to
One company already donated
more than 100 bicycles, mostly for
children. And Christmas came early
for one 5-year-old boy who was
handed a Mickey Mouse doll.
“He just grabbed it and cried
because he had lost all of his toys
and just thought there would be no
Christmas,” Duncan said. “To him,
yesterday was Christmas.”
Marolyn Romero-Sim, her
husband and their 9-year-old
daughter have been at an evacuation
shelter in Ventura for two weeks
after they watched their home
of four years, an RV, burn in the
wildfire, along with their beloved
dog, their Christmas tree and a few
The family is trying to save
money for another RV but know
they’ll probably be in the shelter for
“I try not to let my daughter
know, but I feel horrible,” the
34-year-old Romero-Sim said
through tears Tuesday. “She’s
being so understanding. She’s just
thankful we’re going to be together
for Christmas.”
The devastating fire that began
on Dec. 4 is responsible for two
deaths, has destroyed at least 750
homes and burned about 425 square
miles, making it the second-largest
in the state since accurate records
were kept starting in 1932.
Officials estimate that the
Thomas Fire will grow to become
the biggest in California history
before full containment, expected
by Jan. 7.
A respite from powerful winds
allowed firefighters to reach 55
percent containment on the fire,
and crews were taking advantage
of calm conditions Tuesday by
performing a controlled burn to
remove swaths of dry brush along
the fire’s northern edge.
“We’re going to take a lot of that
fuel out of there,” fire Capt. Rick
Crawford said. “That way when the
winds come back there’ll be nothing
left to burn.”
Hot, gusty winds that caused a
huge flare-up and forced more evac-
uations last weekend are expected to
whip up again Wednesday.
Although some evacuations
were lifted Monday and more resi-
dents were being allowed to return
Tuesday, hillside homes are still
threatened in Santa Barbara, about
100 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Firefighter Cory Iverson, 32, died
Dec. 14 of burns and smoke inhala-
tion while battling the flames. The
blaze is also blamed for the Dec. 6
death of a 70-year-old woman who
died in a car crash on an evacuation
More than 8,000 firefighters from
nearly a dozen states are battling the
Democrat recount McCain says he’s
win alters power
feeling well, vows
in Virginia’s House return in January
(AP) — A single vote may
spell the end of Republican
control in Virginia’s House of
A Democratic challenger
seems to have won a recount
Tuesday by one vote, putting
the partisan balance in the
House at a tie. It would
mean a rare power-sharing
agreement may have to be
Shelly Simonds beat three-
term incumbent Republican
Del. David Yancey in the
94th District in Newport
News, 11,608 to 11,607,
in a dramatic hourslong
recount that ended only after
the precinct ballots were
exhausted and provisional
ballots were examined.
The recounted votes
still must be certified by a
court Wednesday, although
officials said they expected
that no ballots would be
Simonds, a school
board member, had initially
appeared to lose November’s
election by just 10 votes.
Simonds’ recount victory
in this mostly blue collar
district is an aftershock to
the Democratic quake that
shook more affluent areas in
Virginia’s elections.
The Republicans’
commanding 66-34 majority
in the House plummeted
to a 51-49 edge. It’s now
split 50-50 with Simonds’
apparent win.
(AP) — Republican Sen.
John McCain on Monday
expressed thanks for the
overwhelming support as he
battles brain cancer, saying
he is feeling well and looks
forward to being back on the
job in January.
The 81-year senator
returned home to Arizona
after being treated for a
viral infection at Walter
Reed Medical Center in
Maryland. He had missed
votes last week and will
miss a crucial vote on the
GOP tax bill this week.
McCain tweeted on
Monday: “Thanks to
everyone for your support
& words of encouragement!
I’m feeling well & looking
forward to returning to work
after the holidays.”
A statement from his
office said he would undergo
physical therapy and
rehabilitation at the Mayo
Clinic in Arizona. Now
in his sixth Senate term,
McCain underwent surgery
in mid-July to remove a
2-inch blood clot in his brain
and was diagnosed with
U.S. urges UN to
punish Iran, but
Russia says no
(AP) — U.S. Ambassador
Nikki Haley urged the
Security Council on Tuesday
to punish Iran for what the
Trump administration calls
its “dangerous violations”
of U.N. resolutions and
“destabilizing behavior,”
while Russia said dialogue
is needed rather than threats
or sanctions.
Haley told a council
meeting on implementation
of the resolution that
endorsed the 2015 nuclear
deal with Iran that in the
coming days the U.S. will
explore a number of options
with council members to
pressure the Iranians “to
adjust their behavior.”
Haley said the council
could strengthen the
resolution, adopt a new
one to prohibit all Iranian
ballistic missile activity,
explore sanctions “in
response to its clear
violation of the Yemen
arms embargo,” and hold
the Islamic Revolutionary
Guard Corps accountable for
violating numerous council
While the United States
“continues to uphold its
commitments” under the
nuclear agreement, she said
the international community
must take action to address
Iranian actions such as its
arms sales, ballistic missile
launches and support for
But Russia’s deputy
U.N. ambassador, Vladimir
Safronkov, said that what
is needed to implement the
resolution on the nuclear
deal is “to abandon the
language of threats.”
12 killed as bus
carrying tourists
crashes in Mexico
CANCUN, Mexico
(AP) — A bus carrying
cruise ship passengers on an
excursion to Mayan ruins in
southeastern Mexico flipped
over on a narrow highway
Tuesday, killing 11 travelers
and their guide and injuring
about 20 others, officials
Seven Americans and
two Swedes were among
the injured, said Vicente
Martin, spokesman for the
Quintana Roo state Civil
Defense agency. Authorities
had not yet established the
nationalities of the dead.
The bus ended up on
its side in vegetation along
the two-lane road. Video
taken after the crash showed
some survivors lying on the
pavement and others walking
around. One body lay on the
roadside covered by a white
sheet or other object, as the
crash scene was cordoned off
with yellow police tape.
Miami-based Royal
Caribbean Cruises said in
a statement that passengers
from two of its ships, the
Celebrity Equinox and
Serenade of the Seas, were
on the bus. The company
expressed its sympathies
and said it was assisting
with medical care and
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