Tough times in Lake Arrowhead

When I called Rim of the World football coach Bob Gradillas on his wife’s cell phone this evening, I had no idea what to expect. Having kept up with the Sun’s coverage of the Lake Arrowhead fires and watching the local news, not to mention seeing the smoke from it billowing in the distance from my Rancho Cucamonga apartment, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Well, Gradillas and the majority of his coaches have relocated and are fine as of Monday night and are in the process of locating players and making sure things are fine with them. Gradillas, with his wife and some relatives in Highland, has finding his players as his only concern right now.
“I’m safe right now and hopefully the players are safe right now,” Gradillas said. “I told them to stay close to a phone so we can figure out what needs to be done.”
Gradillas last saw his players at 6:30 a.m. Monday morning, as the Scots showed up for a morning weightlifting session. At that point they were told that school was canceled, a cancellation that will exist until at least Wednesday. The players were then sent home to make arrangements to leave if they so chose.
From there, Gradillas and his family evacuated their house by the golf course in Lake Arrowhead. As far as he knew, the house was all right, but houses in the area had been threatened and/or burned.
“I know some of my neighbors have already lost their houses,” Gradillas said. “I think our house is fine right now, but its definitely in danger.”
Monday reminded Gradillas of October 2003, when fires raged in Southern California, causing the San Diego Chargers to play a Monday night game in Tempe, Ariz., along with many other uprootings. During the 2003 fires, Gradillas and his team was evacuated for two weeks, practicing at Sultana High School while commuting from hotels and relatives’ houses from all over the Southland.
“It was a crazy time,” Gradillas said. “We had kids coming from all over and it was just a tough situation. We played Serrano for the league championship and lost a real good game. I was proud of how the kids prepared and played but it was a really difficult situation.”
As difficult as it was for the displaced Scots four years ago, this situation dwarfs that in Gradillas’ opinion. While a few homes in the Cedar Glen area of Lake Arrowhead were lost in 2003, the fire and damage is more locally widespread, with over a hundred houses destroyed and many more in danger.
Also in danger is Rim’s game on Friday against Sultana. The game was supposed to take place in Lake Arrowhead, but that possibility is virtually eliminated with today’s events. While specific discussion will take place Tuesday, Gradillas’ opinion is already set.
“I can’t see how we can play this week,” Gradillas said. “We aren’t sure where everyone is, we won’t have school until Thursday and everyone will be scattered. I just don’t see how its possible, but crazier things have happened.”