CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. - The Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties has forced thousands of people from their homes, some of them with nothing to return to. One evacuee made it here to the Coachella Valley to ride out the fire.
"This was so big and so out of control...that really all of Santa Barbara was in jeopardy," David Wieger said.
That's how he describes the Thomas Fire raging along the Central Coast of California for the past 11 days. He, his wife, and in-laws left their homes in Santa Barbara and stayed at various Airbnbs in the west Valley.
All of them were under voluntary evacuations, but taking no chances, especially with the fire spreading last week.
"Saturday night..it was really raging. It was out of control and so we would have...if we had been there, we would have gotten out of there anyway," Wieger said.
He says the main reason for leaving was the poor air quality in the area from the smoke as his wife is pregnant and did not want that impacting their baby. He constantly checks his phone for air quality updates.
"We just feel the air here has just been absolutely amazing. back home we had to wear a mask in order to go outside at all," he said.
While the clean air is welcome, Wieger says he's been touched by the friendliness and help of locals during their stay.
"People in the trails have been so generous with their spirit. Even the lanlord here at our Air bnb even discounted our rate, knowing we were fire evacuees," he said.
Above all, Wieger is just happy his family is together safe for the holidays. He said his family plans on returning to Santa Barbara on Friday due to the improving air quality.