‘We had to live with the unknown’: Students reflect on Getty fire impacts


Photo credit: Gabby Wolf

The Getty fire burns over a hill. Some families of Archer students were evacuated or faced power outages in addition to school cancellation.

When senior Stella Gregg’s mother shook her awake at 3:00 a.m. on Monday morning, she glimpsed her bedside clock and thought she had slept through the school day. Instead, her mother said she had to evacuate because of the Getty fire. She grabbed some of her favorite clothes and childhood stuffed animals. Then she left.

“I kind of had to sit with, ‘There’s a possibility everything could be fine, but there’s a possibility I could never see my house that I grew up in,'” she said. “That was just haunting me.”

Despite her worries, Gregg’s home was not among the 10 destroyed or 15 damaged in the fire. The blaze, which started when the Santa Ana winds carried a tree branch onto a power line, eventually burned 745 acres of Brentwood, according to LAFD. For affected Archer families, experiences ranged from terrifying to routine.

Gregg’s family found a hotel where they stayed with their two dogs. She said they were “lucky” to secure a room at a time when many hotels were rapidly filling with other evacuees. That morning, she fell asleep watching the news.

“I needed to have some sort of knowledge of what was happening,” she said. “The unknown is almost scarier because your imagination has a lot more power.”

Courtney Fourticq, a freshman who lives on Tigertail Road, feared for her home. Her family’s cats were still at her house. 

“When I thought my house was going to burn down,” she said, “I was just so in shock that I didn’t even cry.” 

Because evacuations are so frequent on her street, senior Kelsey Thompson’s family has developed a list of essential items. The process of gathering her things and leaving her house has become normal.

“I’m pretty calm in these situations,” she said. “I never cry or get too anxious. I’m always just hoping that everybody else is going to be okay.”

Unlike Thompson, sophomore Olivia Jarvie had no idea what belongings she wanted to take when she evacuated early Monday morning.

“I was so terrified,” she said. “I didn’t know what to bring at all. I put a pair of sweatpants on, and I brought a jacket that was important to me, and we left.”

When Jarvie’s father woke her up, she didn’t know why her family was evacuating. She went to wake up her sister and couldn’t explain what was going on. 

“I had no idea what was happening,” she said. “My sister looked out her window and there was a ton of smoke and red.”

Senior Faith Hernandez, who lives in Malibu, was not evacuated, but her power was shut off as a precautionary measure during the extreme red flag warning Wednesday night.

“Our lives have become so dependent on electricity and wifi and having all your technologies, so it’s weird to have it shut off,” she said. 

Hernandez said the power companies are on a difficult position — if they turn power off, they disrupt people’s lives and face backlash. If they keep power on and fires start, they are responsible for the destruction of homes. Though it was difficult to have her power shut off, Hernandez thinks the company did the right thing.

Gregg said she feels indebted to the 96 firefighters who worked to contain the fire.

“I’m really lucky,” she said. “I feel like we all need to show our gratitude to the fire department.”

This article is part of an Oracle series about the impact of the Getty fire on the community.