Californians reflect after fleeing homes as fire came…

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Associated Press

VENTURA, Calif. (AP) – They ran for their lives by the thousands when the devastating wildfires raced across a huge swath of brush-covered Southern California hillsides, and they survived even if their homes didn’t. Here are some stories of evacuees.

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Steve Andruszkewicz and his wife used a garden hose to spray palm trees to keep them from burning as glowing embers whirled in the wind and flames raced down a hillside across the street from their beachside home early Thursday.

Wildfire survivors, Marolyn Romero-Sim, left, with Hugo Romero-Rodriguez, middle, and their 9-year-old daughter, Milagros, sit inside the evacuation center at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura, Calif. Their RV burned up with all their possessions in Ventura, Calif. Wind-driven fires have raced through California communities for the second time in two months, leaving hundreds of homes feared lost and uprooted tens of thousands of people. The most damaging fire is in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, where more than 100 square miles (259 sq. kilometers) and numerous homes have burned. (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)

Wildfire survivors, Marolyn Romero-Sim, left, with Hugo Romero-Rodriguez, middle, and their 9-year-old daughter, Milagros, sit inside the evacuation center at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura, Calif. Their RV burned up with all their possessions in Ventura, Calif. Wind-driven fires have raced through California communities for the second time in two months, leaving hundreds of homes feared lost and uprooted tens of thousands of people. The most damaging fire is in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, where more than 100 square miles (259 sq. kilometers) and numerous homes have burned. (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)

Wildfire survivors, Marolyn Romero-Sim, left, with Hugo Romero-Rodriguez, middle, and their 9-year-old daughter, Milagros, sit inside the evacuation center at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura, Calif. Their RV burned up with all their possessions in Ventura, Calif. Wind-driven fires have raced through California communities for the second time in two months, leaving hundreds of homes feared lost and uprooted tens of thousands of people. The most damaging fire is in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, where more than 100 square miles (259 sq. kilometers) and numerous homes have burned. (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)

He said they would evacuate for the second time this week from tiny Faria Beach, where crews scrambled to protect homes nestled along the shore northwest of Los Angeles. The couple packed bags after the blaze in Ventura County broke out late Monday and destroyed dozens of homes.

“We left Tuesday night and stayed down at our son’s house. We came back yesterday, stayed the night, but this has got me worrying because of the blowing embers,” he said.

Neighbor Joseph Ruffner also evacuated and returned. Pointing at the wall of flames across the street, he noted that the blaze was “coming back to burn what it didn’t burn yesterday.”

Despite the encroaching fire and a lack of electricity in the area, Ruffner insisted he wouldn’t leave again.

“I bought a generator yesterday so at least I can see on TV what’s going on,” he said.

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Marolyn Romero-Sim wept as she sat on a cot at an evacuation center recounting how the modest RV her family called home was destroyed by the largest and most destructive Southern California wildfire.

“Everything is ashes. Everything. We don’t have a place to live. We lost stuff we can’t get back,” she said.

She said her husband, Hugo Romero-Rodriguez, was wracked with guilt that he couldn’t get inside to rescue anything – including their beloved little dog, Coqueta. She was trapped in a crate inside when the vehicle erupted in flames. Romero-Rodriguez suffered cuts on his leg and hand and a burn on his arm trying to get inside to save Coqueta.

“He was sitting there in the driver’s seat and he couldn’t move,” Romero-Sim said Wednesday, recalling how she, her husband and their 9-year-old daughter, Milagros, sat in their truck, watching the RV burn before finally realizing they had to flee their Ventura County neighborhood.

“He just kept watching and he feels so guilty that he couldn’t save it,” she continued. “I told him he did everything he could and he did what he had to save our lives.”

Romero-Rodriguez makes a modest living as a jewelry salesman and he lost the pearls, earrings, bracelets and watches that made up his inventory.

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Rogers reported from Los Angeles. Amanda Lee Myers in Ventura and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed.

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For complete coverage of the California wildfires, click here: https://apnews.com/tag/Wildfires

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This story has been corrected to fix a typo in the name Romero-Sim in 10th and 13th paragraphs.

Wildfire survivors Marolyn Romero-Sim left, and Hugo Romero-Rodriguez, middle, and their 9-year-old daughter, Milagros, sit inside the evacuation center at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura, Calif. Their RV burned up with all their possessions in Ventura, Calif. Wind-driven fires have raced through California communities for the second time in two months, leaving hundreds of homes feared lost and uprooted tens of thousands of people. The most damaging fire is in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, where more than 100 square miles (259 sq. kilometers) and numerous homes have burned. (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)

Wildfire survivors Marolyn Romero-Sim left, and Hugo Romero-Rodriguez, middle, and their 9-year-old daughter, Milagros, sit inside the evacuation center at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura, Calif. Their RV burned up with all their possessions in Ventura, Calif. Wind-driven fires have raced through California communities for the second time in two months, leaving hundreds of homes feared lost and uprooted tens of thousands of people. The most damaging fire is in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, where more than 100 square miles (259 sq. kilometers) and numerous homes have burned. (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)

Wildfire survivors Marolyn Romero-Sim left, and Hugo Romero-Rodriguez, middle, and their 9-year-old daughter, Milagros, sit inside the evacuation center at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura, Calif. Their RV burned up with all their possessions in Ventura, Calif. Wind-driven fires have raced through California communities for the second time in two months, leaving hundreds of homes feared lost and uprooted tens of thousands of people. The most damaging fire is in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, where more than 100 square miles (259 sq. kilometers) and numerous homes have burned. (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)

Lisa Kermode, second from right, and her children, from left, Damien, Lola and Michael, pose outside the ruins of their home after a wildfire swept through Ventura, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. They were home Monday night when Lisa started to smell smoke and her phone buzzed with an alert, urging residents to evacuate. "Within an hour, it was here," she said. "We left. We grabbed nothing," she said Tuesday. "We lost everything." (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)

Lisa Kermode, second from right, and her children, from left, Damien, Lola and Michael, pose outside the ruins of their home after a wildfire swept through Ventura, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. They were home Monday night when Lisa started to smell smoke and her phone buzzed with an alert, urging residents to evacuate. "Within an hour, it was here," she said. "We left. We grabbed nothing," she said Tuesday. "We lost everything." (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)

Lisa Kermode, second from right, and her children, from left, Damien, Lola and Michael, pose outside the ruins of their home after a wildfire swept through Ventura, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. They were home Monday night when Lisa started to smell smoke and her phone buzzed with an alert, urging residents to evacuate. “Within an hour, it was here,” she said. “We left. We grabbed nothing,” she said Tuesday. “We lost everything.” (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)

A volunteer passes supplies donated to Thomas fire evacuees in Ventura, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.  As many as five fires have closed highways, schools and museums, shut down production of TV series and cast a hazardous haze over the region. About 200,000 people were under evacuation orders. No deaths and only a few injuries were reported. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

A volunteer passes supplies donated to Thomas fire evacuees in Ventura, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.  As many as five fires have closed highways, schools and museums, shut down production of TV series and cast a hazardous haze over the region. About 200,000 people were under evacuation orders. No deaths and only a few injuries were reported. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

A volunteer passes supplies donated to Thomas fire evacuees in Ventura, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. As many as five fires have closed highways, schools and museums, shut down production of TV series and cast a hazardous haze over the region. About 200,000 people were under evacuation orders. No deaths and only a few injuries were reported. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Resident Melissa Rosenzweig worries about losing her family home in the second round of weather coming in Ventura, Calif., Wednesday, Dec.6, 2017. The Rosenzweig's house nearly didn't make it this last time, and the house across the street from them burnt down in the Thomas Fire. Wind-driven fires have raced through California communities for the second time in two months, leaving hundreds of homes feared lost and uprooted tens of thousands of people. The most damaging fire is in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, where more than 100 square miles (259 sq. kilometers) and numerous homes have burned. (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)

Resident Melissa Rosenzweig worries about losing her family home in the second round of weather coming in Ventura, Calif., Wednesday, Dec.6, 2017. The Rosenzweig's house nearly didn't make it this last time, and the house across the street from them burnt down in the Thomas Fire. Wind-driven fires have raced through California communities for the second time in two months, leaving hundreds of homes feared lost and uprooted tens of thousands of people. The most damaging fire is in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, where more than 100 square miles (259 sq. kilometers) and numerous homes have burned. (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)

Resident Melissa Rosenzweig worries about losing her family home in the second round of weather coming in Ventura, Calif., Wednesday, Dec.6, 2017. The Rosenzweig’s house nearly didn’t make it this last time, and the house across the street from them burnt down in the Thomas Fire. Wind-driven fires have raced through California communities for the second time in two months, leaving hundreds of homes feared lost and uprooted tens of thousands of people. The most damaging fire is in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, where more than 100 square miles (259 sq. kilometers) and numerous homes have burned. (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)

Wildfire survivor Hugo Romero-Rodriguez shows a hand burn as he sits inside the evacuation center with his family at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura, Calif. Their family RV burned up with all their possessions in Ventura, Calif. Wind-driven fires have raced through California communities for the second time in two months, leaving hundreds of homes feared lost and uprooted tens of thousands of people. The most damaging fire is in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, where more than 100 square miles (259 sq. kilometers) and numerous homes have burned. (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)

Wildfire survivor Hugo Romero-Rodriguez shows a hand burn as he sits inside the evacuation center with his family at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura, Calif. Their family RV burned up with all their possessions in Ventura, Calif. Wind-driven fires have raced through California communities for the second time in two months, leaving hundreds of homes feared lost and uprooted tens of thousands of people. The most damaging fire is in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, where more than 100 square miles (259 sq. kilometers) and numerous homes have burned. (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)

Wildfire survivor Hugo Romero-Rodriguez shows a hand burn as he sits inside the evacuation center with his family at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura, Calif. Their family RV burned up with all their possessions in Ventura, Calif. Wind-driven fires have raced through California communities for the second time in two months, leaving hundreds of homes feared lost and uprooted tens of thousands of people. The most damaging fire is in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, where more than 100 square miles (259 sq. kilometers) and numerous homes have burned. (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)

Crystal Shore look over the wildfire damaged neighbors home along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Crystal Shore look over the wildfire damaged neighbors home along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Crystal Shore look over the wildfire damaged neighbors home along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Carrie Shore walks by her neighbors wildfire damaged home along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Carrie Shore walks by her neighbors wildfire damaged home along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Carrie Shore walks by her neighbors wildfire damaged home along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Neighbors walk past a home destroyed by wildfire along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Neighbors walk past a home destroyed by wildfire along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Neighbors walk past a home destroyed by wildfire along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Workers from the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power walk past a home destroyed by wildfire along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Workers from the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power walk past a home destroyed by wildfire along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Workers from the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power walk past a home destroyed by wildfire along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Crystal Shore, left, and her sister Carrie look over the damage to their neighbor's home along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Crystal Shore, left, and her sister Carrie look over the damage to their neighbor's home along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Crystal Shore, left, and her sister Carrie look over the damage to their neighbor’s home along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Maurice Kaboud makes a phone call after a wildfire threatened his home in the Bel Air district of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. When firefighters told Kaboud to evacuate, he decided to stay and protect his home. The 59-year-old stood in the backyard of his multimillion- dollar home as the Skirball fire raged nearby. "God willing, this will slow down so the firefighters can do their job," Kaboud said. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Maurice Kaboud makes a phone call after a wildfire threatened his home in the Bel Air district of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. When firefighters told Kaboud to evacuate, he decided to stay and protect his home. The 59-year-old stood in the backyard of his multimillion- dollar home as the Skirball fire raged nearby. "God willing, this will slow down so the firefighters can do their job," Kaboud said. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Maurice Kaboud makes a phone call after a wildfire threatened his home in the Bel Air district of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. When firefighters told Kaboud to evacuate, he decided to stay and protect his home. The 59-year-old stood in the backyard of his multimillion- dollar home as the Skirball fire raged nearby. “God willing, this will slow down so the firefighters can do their job,” Kaboud said. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017 file photo, David Rust, left, and his wife Shelly search through the remains of their home destroyed by wildfires in Santa Rosa, Calif. More than $9 billion in insurance claims have been filed following wildfires that ravaged Northern California two months ago, the state's top insurance regulator said Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, file)

FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017 file photo, David Rust, left, and his wife Shelly search through the remains of their home destroyed by wildfires in Santa Rosa, Calif. More than $9 billion in insurance claims have been filed following wildfires that ravaged Northern California two months ago, the state's top insurance regulator said Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, file)

FILE – In this Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017 file photo, David Rust, left, and his wife Shelly search through the remains of their home destroyed by wildfires in Santa Rosa, Calif. More than $9 billion in insurance claims have been filed following wildfires that ravaged Northern California two months ago, the state’s top insurance regulator said Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, file)

Paul and Erica Mattesich embrace before sifting through rubble at their Ventura, Calif., home on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. The family lost their house when the Thomas fire tore through their neighborhood on Colina Vista. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Paul and Erica Mattesich embrace before sifting through rubble at their Ventura, Calif., home on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. The family lost their house when the Thomas fire tore through their neighborhood on Colina Vista. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Paul and Erica Mattesich embrace before sifting through rubble at their Ventura, Calif., home on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. The family lost their house when the Thomas fire tore through their neighborhood on Colina Vista. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Paul Mattesich hands a jar to his wife Erica Mattesich while sifting through rubble at his family's Ventura, Calif., home following a  wildfire on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Paul Mattesich hands a jar to his wife Erica Mattesich while sifting through rubble at his family's Ventura, Calif., home following a  wildfire on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Paul Mattesich hands a jar to his wife Erica Mattesich while sifting through rubble at his family’s Ventura, Calif., home following a wildfire on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Paul and Erica Mattesich embrace before sifting through rubble at their Ventura, Calif., home on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. The family lost their house when the Thomas fire tore through their neighborhood on Colina Vista. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Paul and Erica Mattesich embrace before sifting through rubble at their Ventura, Calif., home on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. The family lost their house when the Thomas fire tore through their neighborhood on Colina Vista. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Paul and Erica Mattesich embrace before sifting through rubble at their Ventura, Calif., home on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. The family lost their house when the Thomas fire tore through their neighborhood on Colina Vista. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

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