Corona Ralphs provides haven, comfort for Canyon Fire evacuees – Orange County Register

Judy Harris didn’t know where to turn when Corona police came to her door Monday night and ordered her to leave because the Canyon fire had gotten too close to her San Clemente Circle home.

“I have my cats and my chicken and I left,” said Harris in her distinctive New York twang.

Harris, her cats, her chicken — Tweety Bird — and several of her neighbors ended up in the parking lot of Ralphs grocery store, uncertain of what to do and where to go. But they soon realized, they picked the right spot.

“(Ralphs) told us last night, ‘If you’re hungry, take anything you’d like,’ ” Harris recalled Tuesday, adding that employees only asked for the barcodes off the items so they could keep track for inventory.

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Alton Palencia, 33, and his parents were also displaced and all ended up in the parking lot as well.

“They were really cool,” Palencia said Tuesday morning as he made himself a cup of coffee at a table Ralphs staff set up outside with snacks, fruit and pastries free for anyone who needed it. “Last night, they were giving out water. I thought it was really kind to take care of their own community like that.”

 

‘Part of the community’

A green sign near the table also thanked the first responders battling the Canyon fire.

“Thank you to the firefighters, police & all the agencies involved,” the sign read. “God bless you. You guys are awesome.”

Palencia grabbed a dog treat for his dogs and a banana for his tortoise, Raffy, named after Palencia’s favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Rafael, before thanking Assistant Manager Michael Soria.

“Honestly, that’s why we do this,” said Soria as he stood outside chatting with several stranded people who had to sleep in there cars. “We do this because we’re part of the community.”

When frightened and disheveled residents began showing up in the parking lot around 8 p.m., according to Soria, and that’s when the employees sprang into action.

“I was at home watching (the fire) on the news when I got a call from my closer, Jaime…

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