Nursing home staff open their own homes to nuns fleeing wildfires

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The Brighter Side
The Brighter Side

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been modified from its original version.

On a beautiful California day, the nuns who live at the Carondelet Center in Brentwood enjoy their lush green lawn and views of the Santa Monica Mountains in the distance.

But as the Skirball wildfire closed in on the nursing home serving the Catholic Sisters of St. Joseph last week, thick brush below their hilltop perch threatened to become tinder.

Firefighters warned that high winds could push existing flames west across the 405 freeway and toward the home.

Worried about moving residents multiple times, staff decided to voluntarily evacuate them — most to staff members' own homes.

“This was the safest and most comfortable option we could think of,” facility administrator Sister Anne McMullen told the Los Angeles Times.

About 20 residents who need routine medical attention were transferred to assisted-living centers in Orange County, the San Fernando Valley, and Culver City. 

But about 10 others stayed with maintenance workers, nurses, administrators and facility drivers.

Mary Kowalski, 87, told the Times she wasn't bothered when staff asked her to pack her belongings and prepare to evacuate at 5 a.m. Wednesday. By 7 a.m., all of the residents had been moved.

Three stayed with an administrator at her home in Koreatown. A driver took four of the nuns — including Kowalski — to his home in Glendora. On Thursday afternoon, he returned to the nursing home to gather a hospital bed, medications and clothes for them.

On Sunday night, an official told McKnight's, most of the nuns had returned after their linens were cleaned, windows sealed and the air conditioning was turned on. The final few came back Monday night.

The facility did not suffer any damage, and fire officials reported the Skirball fire was contained after burning 400 acres.