California Wildfires
The gaming space set up by Mr Valenzuela. Eric Valenzuela

A California man has set up a space in which children who lost their homes to the region's devastating wildfires can play video games with each other and enjoy some much-needed respite.

Fires have swept through the southern part of the state, near Los Angeles and surrounding counties, destroying property, shutting down schools, closing roads and forcing many into evacuating.

Eric Valenzuela, 25, goes by the username Seranikas and shared his story on Reddit, revealing how he helped children in his local community centre.

He explains how he lives in Ventura county, which has been severely affected by the fires.

Houses have burned down in his town, but generally things are safe there for now, including his own house –which he was able to secure.

Hearing of whole trailer park communities being wiped out, he volunteered at a local shelter that was offering refuge to affected families.

Valenzuela had previously been to the shelter to preach as a Jehovah's Witness.

"I knew there were kids living there and lost everything they knew," he writes. "I couldn't sit by thinking these kids, who had lost everything they knew, would be in a shelter with no way to distract themselves from the raging inferno so I did the first thing that came to mind.

He set up a PS4 and a couple of gaming PCs, taking along some kid's games, including acclaimed platformer Sonic Mania and peripheral-based rhythm-action title Rock Band, which he said the children instantly took to. There were some board games too.

"The kids were so entertained and the adults played board games with me at another table nearby," he writes. "Everyone was distracted from the fire and the other volunteers loved it.

"Thomas Fire has burned down many homes, but at least these people won't go thinking they lost hope of being kids and having fun."

Speaking to IBTimes UK Valenzuela explained how he had been evicted from several homes over the years. "I am poor but always help out in town because I follow God's word of 'love your neighbour like you love yourself'," he said. "People need hope in these times."

The 25-year-old plans to study cyber security at university and is setting up his own tech support business to help local people who aren't tech-savvy.

Winds are expected to intensify and spread the fires at a much faster rate, according to the National Weather Service of Los Angeles. A state of emergency was declared on Wednesday (6 December) by Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti.

A number of videos showing the hellish landscapes created by the fires have gone viral. The smoke generated by the fires can even be seen from space. Four photographs taken from the International Space Station were shared on Twitter overnight.