As the Getty fire raged and the sound of sirens echoed around them Monday morning, dozens of women gathered in the community room at Carondelet Center, a nursing home in Brentwood, where the Sisters of St. Joseph live.

But Monday was not a typical day of prayer at the place nearly 80 retired Roman Catholic nuns call home.

The fire, fueled by winds, heat and dry weather, was burning and destroying homes, threatening thousands more, including theirs.

And there they were. No power, but hopefully enough food and water to get through the day. Several residents wore masks and some were in wheelchairs.

But they had faith, their community and their prayers.

When Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Miguel Escobedo Escobedo walked into the room to give a quick update about the fire, they met him with long applause.

It had been a tense morning, to say the least.

Escobedo arrived to access the area around 2 a.m. Monday and he saw roughly 20 retired nuns walking down the hill in ash-filled smoke, trying to escape the areas as the wind-driven fire — which broke out earlier in the morning — quickly approached their three-story building. 

“It was very chaotic,” he said.   

There was a decision to make.

Many residents there are in their late 70s and 80s. Eight of them are bedridden. Power lines were down on several streets and the hot spots continued burning. It would have taken multiple vans, buses, ambulances, and dozens of staff, to evacuate the nuns, Escobedo said.

“They would be stuck,” he said.

So, officials decided to keep the residents in the nursing homes’ community room while battling the blaze on the surrounding hillsides, which had forced communities to flee their homes near Getty Center Drive and the 405 Freeway. Within hours, the blaze charred roughly 600 acres and destroyed several homes.

The nursing home is on top of a hill and surrounded by brush. Its residents were forced to evacuate the area at least once in 2017 when the Skirball fire broke out nearby. At the time, many nuns stayed with personnel in their homes. 

This time, officials were considering to move the nuns to similar facilities in downtown Los Angeles when the fire was controlled, said LAPD Officer Cesar Espinoza.

But until then, police officers would patrol the area as a group of firefighters kept an eye on the site. (As of 5 p.m., the blaze was just 5 percent contained, with more heat and erratic winds in the forecast in coming days.)

The nuns were allowed to return to their rooms, but by later in the day it was still unclear if they would be allowed to leave the facility any time soon.  

“We’re trying to keep them informed,” Escobedo said after meeting the women. “They’re extremely at peace.” 

And after — and during — all that, the prayers kept coming, for others.

On their Facebook page, the sisters – who support schools across the region, from St. Joseph High School in Lakewood to St. Mary’s Academy in Inglewood, said they continued praying for those affected by the fire.

“May God keep everyone safe and bring an end to this very volatile and dangerous situation,” their post said.


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