Here Are Some Of The Most Harrowing Wildfire Escape Stories Coming Out Of California

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Tim Pearce Energy Reporter
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Three wildfires burning in California have upended the lives of hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes as infernos raced toward them.

The Camp Fire became California’s deadliest wildfire Monday. At least 42 people have died in the blaze. It is also the most destructive, having razed more than 6,700 buildings. (RELATED: Camp Fire Death Toll Rises To 42, Making It The Deadliest Fire In State History)

Residents and emergency workers were overwhelmed when the Camp Fire rushed into the town of Paradise Thursday morning, leaving little time to set up perimeters or evacuate. Remains were foundin homes, outside and in cars.

The Hill and Woolsey fires in Southern California forced thousands of evacuations and burned hundreds of buildings. At least two people died in the Woolsey Fire.

The three fires have thrown hundreds of thousands of lives into chaos as people were forced to evacuate their homes, sometimes leaving behind priceless heirlooms and even family pets. The following are some accounts, recorded in news articles or on social media, of people fleeing the monstrous wildfires.

Escape From Paradise

Brynn Chatfield filmed herself and her family escaping Paradise after the Camp Fire swept through the town. The fire burned violently on both sides of the highway as Chatfield prayed out loud, “Heavenly Father, please help us.”


Chatfield posted the video on her Facebook page along with the message, “I feel very vulnerable posting this but I feel I should. My hometown of Paradise is on fire. My family is evacuated and safe. Not all my friends are safe. It’s very surreal. Things always work out, but the unknown is a little scary.”

A Drive Through Fire

Rebecca Hackett drove through the Woolsey Fire after helping to save a herd of horses.

“Oh, my god. Please let me out of here. Please, God,” Hackett pleaded and prayed during her drive.


The video shows Hackett’s vehicle driving through thick smoke and surrounded by flames. Embers constantly blew over her windshield. At many parts of the drive, the only ground free of fire was the road directly ahead of her.

Hackett eventually escaped the Woolsey fire to safety.

‘If You’re Going To Die, Die Fighting’

Nicole Jolly was caught in her car near her home in Paradise when the Camp Fire surrounded her. Unable to see a way out and panicking, Jolly put in a last-minute call to her husband, CNN reports.

“If you’re going to die, die fighting,” he said, telling her to run.

Jolly ran from her car through the red smoke and embers stinging her eyes until she came to a fire engine and group of firefighters. The firefighters brought her inside the vehicle, but they all remained stuck in the middle of the blaze until a bulldozer came to lead them out of danger.

Left Behind

Eleanor Southwick told the story of one of her neighbors in Paradise who stayed in town until late Thursday while the Camp Fire consumed 95 percent of the town.

Southwick’s neighbor stayed behind to protect his home and because he did not own a car to move out. As the fire moved into town, he used a water hose to put out spot fires and embers that were moving in on his property, Southwick told Weather Nation.

“By evening, there was fire on every corner of his block,” Southwick told Weather Nation.

Firefighters driving by told Southwick’s neighbor to evacuate and gave him a ride to a nearby shelter.

Two Hours In A Creek

Matt Armbruster, a resident of Southern California, survived the Woolsey Fire after ignoring an evacuation order. As the fire spread closer to his house, he grabbed his dog and fled to a nearby creek. He laid in the water for two hours while believing he was going to die. After the fire around him died down, he left the creek and returned to his house, which was one of a few in the area to survive, CBS News reports.

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