I was born in a small town in California known as Paradise. Paradise had a population of about 30,000 people. It had a Starbucks, multiple schools, a hospital, and every other thing a semi-modern town has. When I was in the sixth grade, my mom moved us about 30 minutes away to a bigger city called Chico.
Earlier this month early in the morning, Chico skies became dark, and over the mountain the entire town could see flames. Our neighboring town of Paradise looked to be in serious trouble. Every single one of my family members lost their homes; our friends lost some of their pets and some even their lives. Here are six surreal horror stories of people escaping the deadliest wildfire in California to this date:
“I woke up around 6 a.m. to pure blackness around me. I ran outside and immediately started pushing every flammable thing away from my house. We were used to this stuff in Paradise, people were evacuated at least once every year. I didn’t realize how bad it truly was until my kids got in the car, and right as we were leaving the driveway, the fire had spread and was jumping houses. I saw our street burn before my eyes. Thankfully we were driving on a safe paved road, but our eyes were behind us the whole time. To see my kids face look at their childhood burn before their eyes — horrible.”
“Our house was in a horrible place to be at the time of the fire. Every single person around us was getting out of their cars and running by foot because their cars were melting. The firefighters were even yelling telling everyone to run. It was a madhouse, I had people jumping in the back of my truck and just screaming at the top of their lungs. It was something from a movie. We watched as bodies burnt around us. I can’t believe it.”
“I left for work early that morning and had no idea a fire would start just an hour later. I left all of my dogs and cats inside and was unable to get back up the hill to let them out. I’m devastated.”
“The plan was to go across town to my dad’s house. My mom told us that our house wasn’t safe, but that our dad’s was because it was clear across town. No one in their wildest dreams would have dreamt that it would take an entire town down. Every single home.”
“I called my wife and told her that I loved her with my whole heart and I thanked her for caring for our children. I knew I wasn’t going to make it. Everyone around me was screaming for their lives and jumping out of their cars. I looked to my left as I was talking to her and there she was. ‘Is that you?’ I yelled in despair. She was in the perfect place and had the car moving, I jumped in and we got out of there as quickly as possible.”
“I knew there was no way I would get out of their safe. I texted my wife of 36 years and I told her that no matter what, I loved her. Everyone was driving fast and ignoring all stop lights; the Safeway caught on fire right in front of my eyes. Roads were closed. Every car on the road was driving between two forests of fires on each side. The road was burning, our tires were slowly melting. I have never felt so hot in my entire life. Before I knew it, everything around me was burning. I heard a voice in my head that told me to turn around and try to get out north, a way that no one was going. I had no other choice, there were explosions going off all around me and gas stations exploding. I am so thankful I listened to that voice, about two hours later I found my wife and we were both completely out of breath. Everyone we know literally escaped with barely their lives.”