Flames From Ca Fires REach Andover

The wildfires that broke out last weekend in southern California have hit close to home for some Golden State natives at Phillips Academy, while others students have escaped unscathed. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention reported that 40,000 acres of land have been burned, and according to the UK Guardian, over 30,000 people have been evacuated, including the friends and family of many PA students. The family of Lucy Bidwell ’09 housed 15 neighbors and relatives who were forced to evacuate their homes this weekend. “We had people from all over the world: France, Morocco, Toronto, and even a family from London on a romantic vacation,” Geraldine Bidwell ’79, Lucy’s mother, said. Mrs. Bidwell said one man threw all of his waterproof valuables into his pool hoping to keep them safe. “He had to go scuba diving two days ago,” she said. “In a situation like this, you grab a few photos, your kids and your pets, and then later you try to go back to get more of your things,” said Mrs. Bidwell, describing the evacuations. She said that the emergency was handled well by the firefighters and police. She said, “No one felt like they had to go against what the police were telling them.” “The firefighters were amazing,” said Mrs. Bidwell. “People loved the firefighters for their ethics and hard work.” Mrs. Bidwell also said that there were regular automated calls from the Fire Marshal’s Department throughout the night about the current situation of the fire. Citizens who got through the crisis unharmed gave generously to those in need, said Mrs. Bidwell. “People were buying Target gift certificates for the families who lost houses or property in the fire,” she said. The fires were very scattered in the Bidwells’ area according to Bidwell’s husband, who said, “If you weren’t directly in the fire, you wouldn’t necessarily know anything happened.” Mr. Bidwell described the current mood of people in the area as “upbeat.” Gabby Kwon ’11 knows two people whose houses have burned down, but her own family has not been affected. “When I first heard about the fires, I called my parents, and they were actually really relaxed,” Kwon said. “When I called my friends they were really scared though.” She also said that the majority of her old classmates had to evacuate their houses. “One of my friends was evacuated and had to drive one of the family’s cars away from the house, even though she had only just gotten her [driving] learners’ permit,” she continued. “[Her family] could actually see the fire in their backyard as they were driving away.” The house of Ali Flanders ’09 has been left untouched by the fires, but she said that trees on her street have been incinerated by the wildfires. She added that school has been closed for all her friends at home. The current fires have not inflicted any damage on the property of her neighbors either, though the fires that occurred last year claimed a few houses in Flanders’s area. Conor May ’09 said the school where his mother teaches has released all its students. He also said that because his home is in a valley, the smoke from the fires in other places convenes there. “The air quality is really bad right now,” he said. May said his own area has not been reached by the fires, and he does not expect it to be.