Neighbors in Crisis: How Sunrise at La Costa Responded During a Wildfire Evacuation

Earlier this year, we shared how a community of Assisted Living communities and employees came together to help in the safe evacuation of ActivCare at Bressi Ranch. The same fire that caused the evacuation also threatened the area around Sunrise at La Costa, including a nearby elementary school. In the Summer 2014 issue of CALA News & Views, we shared the story of how Sunrise at La Costa stepped in to make sure all community members were safe:

“We had been watching the news all day,” Eugenia Welch, Executive Director of Sunrise at La Costa begins as she describes the events of May 14th. “In the morning, we learned of a fire at nearby Camp Pendleton. Then, as the day progressed, nine separate fires started all on the same day…including the Poinsettia Fire.”
Smoke from the Poinsettia Fire, May 2014

Smoke from the Poinsettia Fire, May 2014

According to the May 2014 San Diego County Wildfires After Action Report, The Poinsettia Fire ignited that day near Poinsettia Lane and Alicante Road in Carlsbad, CA—approximately one and a half miles from Sunrise at La Costa. The fire spread to about 600 acres and burnt several structures. It was clear to Welch and her team that, because of the fire’s proximity, evacuation was likely.
“While we were preparing for that possibility,” Welch says, “we realized that, about noon, the nearby school had been evacuated.” According to the After Action Report, Aviara Oaks Elementary was one of several schools that were evacuated throughout the day. Welch says the Poinsettia Fire had reached to the end of their ball field, which, luckily, acted as a natural fire-break. The students walked the half-mile to Sunrise at La Costa with their teachers to take refuge.
“It was 103 degrees out that day,” says Welch, “so we had about 500 kids gathered in the community’s hallways and common areas. Thankfully, employees from the Vons grocery store across the street walked over with water, bananas, and ice pops for them.” The students were there for about 45 minutes, then parents arrived to pick them up.
Sunrise at La Costa received words of gratitude from the students that were temporarily sheltered in their building that day. After the fire danger had passed, Aviara Elementary held a ceremony where students presented the residents and the community with a certificate of generosity and handwritten letters of thanks.
aviara oaks ceremony

Aviara Oaks Elementary students gather to present Sunrise at La Costa and Vons with certificates of generosity.

In one, a student writes, “When we got to Sunrise Assisted Living I saw the bright green grass that made me happy because when I saw that smoke I felt a little scared and worried….I’m so appreciative of all you have done for our school. You were so nice to let us stay there.”
certificate of generosity

Sunrise at La Costa’s Certificate of Generosity, presented by the students of Aviara Oaks

If you’d like to read the rest of the article, visit CALA News & Views: Care Partners. Want to learn more about how Assisted Living communities prepare in advance for emergencies? Access CALA’s Disaster Preparedness resources.



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