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Burbank High Athletic Director Fred Cook needed...

Burbank High Athletic Director Fred Cook needed to be in his office

Wednesday.

Although he was busy doing his regular paperwork, coordinating

games and making sure coaches and players are happy, Cook had to be

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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.

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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.”

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“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

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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

is.”

While he was away from the school, Quayle said Cook stayed

informed and continued to try and coordinate things via his cell

phone.

“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

administrative duties.

“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

mine.

“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 jeff.tully@latimes.com.


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