Camp Pendleton ‘Santa’ spreads joy during Creek Fire

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SAN DIEGO — Some families spent much of Christmas Eve evacuated from their homes as firefighters worked to contain the Creek Fire.

Up to 7,000 residents at Camp Pendleton and in nearby Fallbrook were told to evacuate early Thursday morning as the blaze grew to 3,000 acres.

“It looked like the sun was rising in the west,” neighbor Sharon Richardson said. “The thought that comes to your mind, is my house going to be here when I get back?” 

Another thing that was top of mind — what about Christmas? Presents were left behind as families fled their homes.

Kelli Smith said her three kids were worried sick about missing out on a delivery from Santa.

“All day, (from) 2 o’clock in the morning, it was like, ‘Santa’s not going to know where we are,’” Smith said. “All the parents were like, ‘What do we tell our kids? What do we do?’”

To their surprise, a friend at Camp Pendleton had an important message for them. 

“My elves have been watching while you’ve been scurrying the last day or two,” a service member dressed in a Santa suit said via video message. “Santa Claus can always track you down wherever you’re staying. My elves keep me up to date.”

It was a touching gesture for kids and parents whose Christmas Eve was turned upside down by the Creek Fire.

“It made me cry, it made all my friends cry,” Smith said. 

Meanwhile, the Red Cross put 135 people up in Temecula hotels. They’re telling anyone who is still in need of services because of the Creek Fire to call the Red Cross at 571-595-7911.

“Some people still can’t get in their homes,” David O’Neil with the American Red Cross said. “If they need a place, yes, they can call us.”

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