Friday, December 9, 2022

They weren’t looking for love. But they found each other in the bleakness of a fire evacuation center.

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But then the Caldor Fire tore by her tiny California city, and the 54-year-old mom of 4 was despatched to an evacuation middle in late August.

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At the Cameron Park Evacuation Center, there have been loads of her neighbors from Pollock Pines, a rural area in El Dorado County, Calif. She was surrounded by individuals who additionally had been compelled to flee their properties as the raging fire put greater than 36,000 residents throughout 9 counties underneath evacuation orders.

“It was horrifying,” recalled Schlumpf, who was dwelling together with her 27-year-old son at the time. “We could see the flames and the smoke.”

Schlumpf spent a number of nights at the evacuation middle, which was lined with rows of military cots and folding tables. Like other evacuees, she was riddled with nervousness that the blaze would scorch her house and decimate her neighborhood, the place she has lived for simply over a yr.

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Another evacuee at the middle, Tim Warren, 62, had been a resident of Pollock Pines for eight years. While the small city has a inhabitants of lower than 7,000, he had by no means met Schlumpf — who shortly caught his eye.

Warren was frightened, too, about the fire and his house, but his thoughts started to wander elsewhere. It wasn’t till the third day at the evacuation middle that he mustered up the braveness to introduce himself to Schlumpf. Once he did, every little thing modified.

“When I started talking to Holly and getting to know her,” Warren mentioned, “I just had that feeling.”

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Warren, who had been single for greater than a decade, started chatting with Schlumpf. Neither one was looking to fulfill somebody — particularly not at an evacuation middle, of all locations. But then Warren made it clear he had a crush.

The morning after they met, he left flowers and a water bottle beside her mattress.

Although Schlumpf, a retired administrative assistant, initially had reservations about her potential suitor, she quickly found herself swooning over him.

Before both of them knew it, they had been inseparable.

“We went on walks together, went for coffee together and we danced together,” Schlumpf mentioned. “It definitely felt like high school again.”

Warren was smitten, he mentioned, by “her laugh, her sense of humor, her smile. She just has a good heart.”

Their budding romance was an sudden distraction from the misery that surrounded them. Once they found each other, they agreed, being at the evacuation middle wasn’t so unhealthy. In reality, they cherish the 14 days they spent collectively there.

When Warren discovered that Schlumpf’s birthday was on Aug. 28, and he or she could be spending it at the middle, he promptly deliberate a shock get together for her.

“We got everybody to sing. We had all kinds of foods, cakes and deserts,” mentioned Warren, who’s semiretired and nonetheless does some handyman work. “It was awesome.”

“It was the biggest surprise,” she mentioned, significantly as a result of at the time, “I didn’t really know him that well.”

Once they got the inexperienced mild to depart the evacuation middle, Schlumpf dropped Warren off at his house, which was spared from the fire.

“We are the fortunate ones,” Schlumpf mentioned, including that her house was additionally unaffected by the flames.

As she pulled up in entrance of Warren’s home, lower than a 10-minute stroll from her personal place, he requested a hug and earnestly requested, “Come back tomorrow?”

Schlumpf did come again — and he or she by no means left.

“It gets better every day,” she mentioned.

“We do everything together,” echoed Warren. “We cook together, we do fun things together, we dance together. That woman loves to dance.”

Things between them moved shortly. Just one month after they met, Warren proposed.

“It took a major tragedy to bring our love together,” Schlumpf mentioned, including that they plan to formally tie the knot inside the yr.

“Tim always says: ‘Where have you been all my life?’ ” she continued. “I tell him I was lost. But now I’m home.”

Indeed, out of the ashes, “I found my soul mate,” Warren mentioned.

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