Burbank High Athletic Director Fred Cook needed to be in his office
Although he was busy doing his regular paperwork, coordinating
games and making sure coaches and players are happy, Cook had to be
in his small campus office for another reason.
Residing in Stevenson Ranch in the Santa Clarita Valley area,
Cook’s residence was being threatened by the Simi Valley fire that
raged out of control this week.
Realizing the fire -- and the possibility of his house burning
down -- was out of his control, Cook found solace in the distraction
of his work as an athletic director.
“If I wasn’t here [at work], I would be worrying about the fire
and my place too much,” said Cook, who has been a coach, teacher and
administrator at the school for more than a decade. “At least when
I’m at school, I can do some work and try and forget about everything
that is happening.”
“It is just something that I needed to do.”
Earlier in the week, Cook was forced to leave the friendly
confides of Burbank High when he was informed his residence was in
the direct path of the fire.
Although he had to venture away from the school, Cook was eager to
return to his duties.
“The other day, Fred had to leave the school during his lunch to
evacuate his house,” said Helen Quayle, Burbank assistant principal
of activities and athletics. “He didn’t even know if he was going to
have a house left when he got there.
“But just like Fred, he went, evacuated his house, and he was back
at school for a volleyball game. That just shows how dedicated he
While he was away from the school, Quayle said Cook stayed
informed and continued to try and coordinate things via his cell
“We were talking to him and he was saying things like ‘If this
sport gets canceled, you have to make sure you contact the officials
and take care of the buses,’ ” Quayle said. “He was still trying to
get things taken care of.”
Like many other structures, Cook’s place was spared because of the
diligent and tireless work of brave firefighters.
While Cook and Quayle were taking care of postponements,
cancellations and revised travel plans at their school, their
counterparts at Burroughs were doing the same thing.
In fact, Burroughs Assistant Principal of Activities and Athletics
Jay Gudzin has more in common with Cook than just athletic
“Jay lives about a few blocks from me [in Stevenson Ranch],” Cook
said. “So I know his house was under fire as well.”
Gudzin’s home was at an even greater danger of falling victim to
the fire than Cook’s. Gudzin was forced to rush home Tuesday as the
blaze moved dangerously close to his dwelling. He also spent
Wednesday taking care of matters with his house -- not knowing which
direction the fire was moving.
Having to hurry home and not knowing if his house would still be
standing was a tough situation for Gudzin.
“It was very scary,” Gudzin said. “I had to miss a day and a half
of school because of the fires.”
Being at the mercy of the fires, Gudzin said although the blaze
did come very close to his house, it was saved.
“The fire came about 25 yards away from my house,” Gudzin said.
“They were dropping water on the house just across the street from
“It was a very bad situation for a lot of people up there.”
Cook and Gudzin are no doubt hoping the fires will be brought
completely under control soon, so they can go back to work without
having to worry if they still have a place to go back to.
* JEFF TULLY is the sports editor of the Burbank Leader. He can be
reached at 843-8700, or by e-mail at email@example.com.