A group of children at a fire evacuation shelter in California got the surprise of a lifetime on Tuesday, when Santa Claus showed up to offer hugs and support to the families affected by the wildfires sweeping across the region, reports say.
Greg Lindfors said he wanted to help the children at the Ventura County Fairgrounds when he learned that several families fled to the shelter as the Thomas Fire spread across more than 65,000 acres in Southern California, according to the Los Angeles Times. So, he dressed up as Santa Claus and set out to meet the children.
“I figured hugs are about the best I could do right now,” Lindfors told KABC, according to Good Morning America. “Santa is really good at hugs. And right now I can’t help out, like, the firefighters — God bless them — or the Red Cross. But Santa’s here to give hugs.”
Showing up at the shelter was Lindfors’ idea, Laura Reagan told the Times. About 300 families have registered at the shelter and several people have donated piles of clothes and blankets for the evacuees, the Times reports.
“We brought Santa to the kids to bring a little bit of cheer,” Reagan, who helps set up photos with Santa at a local mall, told the publication.
Lindfors embraced the children and spoke with them about what they wanted for Christmas, he told the Times. However, one little boy just wanted a very long hug.
More than 25,000 residents have been forced to evacuate since the massive Thomas Fire broke out earlier this week. After starting near Santa Paula — which is about 70 miles north of Los Angeles —Thomas Fire spread across 31,000 acres within just a few hours. By Wednesday, it had covered 65,000 acres, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office announced.
Smaller brush fires, called the Creek, Rye and Skirball blazes, have prompted more evacuations and have even led state officials to shut down the heavily-traveled Interstate 405. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County.
Three fire firghters were injured in Los Angeles and were taken to a hospital where they were listed in stable condition, the Washington Post reports. One person died in a rollover crash while trying to evacuate the area as thousands attempted to escape in the dark earlier this week, CNN reports.
“These are days that break your heart,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a recent news conference. “These are also days that show the resilience of our city.”
Several YouCaring fundraisers have been created to help those affected by the fires.