MONTECITO (CBSLA) — An exhibit hall on the Ventura County fairgrounds has been home for many evacuees as the Thomas Fire continues to tear through Ventura.

“I thought I was gonna lose the house and everything in it,” Ritchie Albert said.

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Albert’s home since 1984 survived while most of his neighbors homes did not. But he’s still unable to return; and for now, the Red Cross evacuation shelter is home.

People come on an as-need basis.  Albert says he’s meeting new neighbors all the time.

“Some of them have now gone home, some of the people I buddied up with,” he said.

The shelter has been home to about 250 evacuees a night.

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Cots are set up. There is security and three meals a day.

The fire is still raging.  Ritchie Albert’s neighborhood is still under evacuation orders. He says he’s not yet sure when he’ll be able to return.

But for now, these new neighbors have each other.

“I kind of was afraid to come to a shelter,” evacuee Kathy Evans said. “These people are wonderful.”

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