Multiple fires are raging in Southern California. A series of Santa Ana wind-driven wildfires have destroyed hundreds of structures, forced thousands to flee and smothered the region with smoke in what officials predicted would be a pitched battle for days.

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Evacuating the Skirball fire with a cat, family photos and a neighbor's marathon medals

The Skirball fire prompted a full closure of the 405 Freeway and mandatory evacuations. (KTLA-TV)
The Skirball fire prompted a full closure of the 405 Freeway and mandatory evacuations. (KTLA-TV)

Jackson Rogow, 24, woke up at 6 a.m. to the smell of smoke and the wail of sirens. He ran outside in his boxer shorts, and saw his neighbors on Bellagio Road standing in the street and packing their cars. The moon was blood red.

He turned on the news, and saw aerial footage of his eight-unit apartment building from a helicopter monitoring the Skirball fire. He turned to his girlfriend and said, “We should pack.”

By 7 a.m., fire trucks were racing up and down the street, apparently trying to get as close to the fire as possible, Rogow said. He waved to one truck and shouted, “Should I leave?” A firefighter gave him a thumbs-up, he said, but he wasn’t sure what that meant. 

Rogow packed the couple’s cat, Zeppelin, and a bag of kitty litter. His girlfriend found a stack of photographs of her late father. 

At about 8:30 a.m., Rogow got an emergency alert on his phone advising him of the evacuation area boundaries: the 405 Freeway on the west, Sunset Boulevard to the south, Roscomare Road to the east and Mulholland Drive to the north. His building was squarely inside it. 

Then he remembered a conversation he’d had with his neighbor, who had temporarily left the state for cancer treatment. Before she left, Rogow asked her: “If your house is burning down, what do I grab?”

Her medals, she said. She had more than three dozen, from marathons, half marathons and 5k races at Disneyworld. So Rogow broke her side window and grabbed them. 

As they left, police taped off his street, Rogow said. Everyone in his apartment building evacuated, he said, but one homeowner down the street vowed to stay and protect his house. 

Rogow planned to go to a friend’s apartment in Westwood with a rooftop where they could watch the fire. But he made one stop first. 

“I needed a smoothie,” he said. He picked up his regular order: an $11 blend with probiotics, strawberries and kale.

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