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Valley Fire evacuees struggle to find shelter, information

People who had to pack up and get out of the area as flames raced towards their homes spoke with News 8 on Sunday.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Evacuees from the Valley Fire in Japatul Valley near Alpine had been through a lot in 24 hours as of Sunday evening. People who had to pack up and get out of the area as flames raced towards their homes spoke with News 8.

“It’s scary,” said Tim Townsley, a Jamul resident. "It was scary watching it coming at me for sure.” 

Sunday was a tense time for Townsley who pointed out his home near the raging Valley Fire. 

“There's our little white house there,” he said.  

The Jamul resident lives on Montiel Truck Trail that’s closed off. He said his neighbors lost their homes. 

"I can look at it and tell you there are houses that are missing right now,” Townsley said. “There are houses that aren’t there anymore.”  

The fire burned down Teri Gray’s friend’s homes too. 

"It’s a lot bigger and closer, and I’ve had a few friends lose their homes already,” said Gray, a Jamul resident since 2003  

Not wasting time, she loaded up her belongings on Lyons Valley Road on Sunday.  

“I’m just packing my two cars out here,” she said.  

She said no power, no water, and no internet were huge challenges for residents in dire need of fire info. 

“That bothers me probably the most that they turn our electricity off and we have no way to defend ourselves," Gray said. 

With evacuation orders at Honey Springs Road, CHP stopped traffic at Skyline Truck Trail and Lyons Valley blocking Jamie Lafortune from getting in. 

“[I] have my horse trailer ready to take any animals,” said Lafortune who runs Jamul Feed & Supply and wanted to supply food and water to overheated animals. “I saved sheep. I’ve saved dogs and goats. I’ve been at it since yesterday. I actually slept outside because it’s been so hot.”  

There was no sleeping in school gymnasiums as in past fires due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It would be much safer to put these families in a hotel then to set up gymnasium type shelters,” said Dave Maloney, a senior disaster manager with the American Red Cross.  

At Steele Canyon High School, evacuees like Cheryl Reiff said they needed a place for their pets. 

"First I packed up the cats because the hardest to round up,” she said.  

Townsley and his wife planned to sleep in a trailer with no air conditioning at the high school Sunday.  

“When it started marching up the big hill right there and it was like four tornadoes of fire,” he said. “I was like, ‘I don’t have a chance with this thing. I’m out of my element.’” 

RELATED: Valley Fire latest updates, multiple structures destroyed