By Michael Fogerty
Director of Transportation
Hemet Unified School District
At about 5 p.m. Monday, July 15, Hemet Unified School District Director/Safety Officer Lucy Rebuck contacted me regarding the possible need to evacuate 250 children from the Ronald McDonald Camp in the Lake Hemet area.
Six buses were immediately dispatched to the location. The drivers arrived on the scene within an hour-and-a-half and were on standby at the Lake Hemet Market in case they were needed. By 1:30 a.m. no evacuation was needed and the buses returned to the Transportation Facility.
At about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Rebuck again contacted me regarding the need to evacuate the Ronald McDonald camp.
Six buses were again dispatched to the location and arrived in less than an hour. The camp personnel did not immediately want to evacuate and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department was called in to “negotiate” with camp directors.
Eventually, the buses were let in and 250 children were loaded onto the buses and transported to the large parking lot at Hemet High, where Rebuck and I coordinated the transfer of the children from Hemet buses to charter buses to be distributed to different parts of Southern California. Children of varying ages attending this camp have either cancer or some other serious type of illness. Rebuck and I completed the transfer at about 11:45 p.m.
On Wednesday, I began to receive reports that parts of Idyllwild were going to be evacuated. I promptly contacted Buckhorn Camp, Idyllwild Arts, Camp Emerson and AstroCamp to ascertain the number of children at each site. I learned that we were dealing with about 1,000 children and that many were from out of state and from different countries. My staff then began assembling about 50 transportation personnel for possible evacuations.
Rebuck then coordinated a meeting with Maintenance Director Anthony Pipkins and me to plan the logistics to support all of the children. Drivers then began heading to the area, in advance of the evacuation order, to be in position. All the camps, except Emerson, then contacted me stating they were, indeed, under a mandatory evacuation. We were able to get all of our resources where they were needed and placed another six buses at Idyllwild School for any other contingency in the area.
Rebuck and I then coordinated the delivery of more than 875 children on buses to Hemet High School throughout the evening. At the completion of the evacuation, I contacted the camp directors and exchanged information. I offered our services at any time throughout the night and the next few days.
A short time later, AstroCamp contacted me requesting that we transport a group of children to the Ontario airport. The bus departed Hemet High at about 12:45 a.m.
On the morning of July 18, Buckhorn Camp contacted me to transport their entire 350 children to a location in Palm Desert. Energy Education Manager Andy McGuire and I coordinated that transportation. They were all delivered to that location by 1 p.m. that day.
Idyllwild Arts had secured hotel rooms in the Palm Desert area were expected to depart later that day. I had offered transportation to the Executive Director. I am waiting to hear whether he will need our services at this time.
I am pleased to report that my staff was dedicated, professional and eager to help. I received numerous accolades from the camp directors of how “wonderful” the drivers were and how grateful they were of our promptness in their time of need.
This was an amazing team effort that also involved Rebuck’s tireless efforts over the last 72 hours. Her ability to coordinate our efforts with the Emergency Operation Center was critical in this endeavor. Pipkins’ ability to quickly adapt to the ever-changing situation was incredible.