After reporting all day and most of the night on the Thousand Oaks shooting, I was awakened just after 3 by a hotel loudspeaker: “Please collect your bags and exit immediately.”
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By the time I pulled into my hotel at about 10 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8, ash had already started to rain down on the nearby freeway. I had spent the evening at vigils in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where a gunman killed 12 people at a country music bar the night before.
Even as the service at the Thousand Oaks community center started, people’s phones buzzed with alerts warning them of impending and nearby evacuations. But, really, I thought little of it. The fires felt far away, as if they were smoldering in some distant forest, not a nearby canyon. Never for a moment did I stop to think we could be evacuated just a few hours later.
I could have driven home that night — Thousand Oaks is about 35 miles north of Los Angeles, where I’ve been based for several years as a national correspondent. But I assumed I would need to be back in the area again the next morning and I was eager to avoid Friday morning traffic.