MARIPOSA, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – The fast-moving Oak Fire burning in Mariposa County is threatening thousands of homes, leaving thousands of people stranded.

The American Red Cross set up an evacuation center at Mariposa Elementary, where around 60 people anxiously wait.

“I just worry for people,” said evacuee Richard G. Perez. “You can see them here and I know they want to be home.”

Over 30 years ago, Perez who is an army veteran married his wife. Perez never thought he would spend his anniversary on a cot at Mariposa Elementary wondering if his house burned to the ground.

“A lot of memories you know,” said Perez. “My family grew up there, my kids grew up there. It is just sad.”

The cot to the left of Perez was taken by Emmanuel Scudder. Two years ago, Scudder was on a ventilator and in a coma with COVID.  

He survived and he and his wife decided to move to their dream home in Mariposa about a year ago.

“This is the first time in my life being evacuated,” said Scudder. “So this is kinda different. A lot of anxiety.

On the drive to the evacuation center, the rising plume of smoke was a reminder of the relentless Oak Fire.

“Yeah it was scary,” said Scudder.

The inferno creeps up on thousands of buildings and tore through several homes, leaving nothing but washers, dryers, and a brick fireplace behind.

As firefighters race to contain the blaze, Scudder and Perez patiently wait on their cots. The two are fearful but also grateful that their family and pets got out alive.

“The main this is our family and our pets,” said Scudder. “Everything else is replaceable and that is what I care about.”