Connecticut natives among California wildfire evacuees

WALLINGFORD -- Connecticut natives, now living in Malibu, are among those who have evacuated their homes because of the flames.

The wildfire in Malibu has destroyed hundreds of homes and killed at least two people. Arielle Verinis of Woodbridge moved out to Malibu eleven years ago to follow her dreams of becoming a professional singer. Last week, the city she’s grown to love became a backdrop for one of the deadliest wildfire seasons in California history.

"It was horrific," said Verinis. "I don’t know if people understand just how scary it was."

Verinis and her husband, who is also from Connecticut, evacuated the region on Friday morning, leaving behind complete devastation.

"We got in the car with the three dogs and what we could take and headed off," she said. "People think, 'Malibu, California, it’s the land of the rich and famous.' But there are a lot of regular, working-class people that have lost everything and it really is devastating."

Verinis said she knows at least ten people who lost their homes. Luckily, hers is still standing and she credits her neighbors for their volunteer work.

"They stuck around and they literally saved our house," she said.

The messages of love and support Verinis has received from her loved ones back home in Connecticut has given her strength.

One of those friends, Tony Zuppardi, graduated from Amity High School with Verinis.

"These are people I spent my youth with," said Zuppardi, who lives in Wallingford. "To see that they’re going through a national disaster and a tragedy like this, it hurts."

Zuppardi is a member of the North Farms Volunteer Fire Department.

"I wish I could go out there and help but we’re not trained the way those wildfire firefighters are trained," he said.

Verinis said she feels grateful for everyone's support and for the heroic work of firefighters and volunteers.

If you would like to learn more about how you can donate to victims of the California wildfires, click here. You can also donate to the American Red Cross.