Hundreds flee fire and take refuge in Coachella Valley

American Red Cross offering food and shelter

BEAUMONT, Calif. - While firefighters continue to battle the Mountain Fire and people living or staying in San Jacinto Mountain communities being told to leave the area, an evacuation center opened Wednesday at Beaumont High School.

The American Red Cross told News Channel 3 220 people spent Wednesday night at the Beaumont High Gymnasium where food and shelter are available for evacuees. 

More than half the people who took refuge at Beaumont High are with an international theater ministry.  The Red Cross is trying to do its best to accommodate the big group that is trying to salvage a five-day retreat in Idyllwild.   The retreat was cut short when evacuation orders were issued early Wednesday evening.

"Its bare basics, you got cots and blankets on a gym floor, but they've also been very gracious and they've opened up a couple of other rooms with better acoustics so we can actually hear each other," said Mark Johnson-Tanner, the North American supervisor of the Covenent Players Ministry.

Hundreds of kids also took refuge from the fire, at the Palm Desert Center for Spiritual Living.  The group was forced to evacuate from their campground where their spiritual retreat was taking place.  Some of the teens came as far as Canada, and were forced to leave the Buckhorn Camp Wednesday when the order came down.

Evacuation centers are also open at Hemet High School and Hamilton High School in Anza. 

The evacuation centers do not permit animals.  The Riverside County Department of Animal Services said large and small animals can be taken to  the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus at 581 South Grand Ave. in San Jacinto.      

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