'Start packing right away': Family forced to evacuate due to Moc Fire has words of warning for Californians

GROVELAND, Calif. (KFSN) -- It was just this month that Ralph McLaughlin and his wife decided to move into their Groveland vacation home full-time.

But as the Moc Fire moved towards their mountain home and they started seeing ash falling from the sky, they began packing everything to evacuate.

The fire was burning at 2800 acres on Friday night with zero containment, forcing people out of their homes in Tuolumne and Mariposa Counties.

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The McLaughlins made the difficult decision to leave hours before evacuation orders were even handed down to his neighborhood.

Ralph says it was the right move to leave hours early, because he never anticipated it would take 90 minutes to gather and load gear for three adults and three dogs before getting out.

"The jist of it is you are never going to be as prepared as you think you are and you are never going to be able to move as quickly as you think you can," he says. "If there is any remote chance that a fire could move quickly and enter your community, start packing things up right away."

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He says he never considered factors like loading heavy equipment into the vehicle, long lines at the gas pump on the way out of town, and even a power outage that cut off their access to critical fire info.

His advice to anyone whose home could be at risk is to start preparing as soon as there are signs and not to wait for officials' orders.

He suggests keep things you will need to take packed up near your escape vehicle. He and his family are now safe at a hotel.

But the American Red Cross is ready to assist others at The Mariposa county fairgrounds, serving as a temporary evacuation site while they coordinate shelter at a campsite, hotel or dorm.

Screenings for COVID-19 are taking place, but symptoms won't keep a family from getting help.

"We will find shelter for everyone. We will not turn anybody away. We will just make sure that they have more of an isolated situation," says Lori Wilson with the Red Cross.
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