“Get anywhere safe” was all the dispatcher told Jan Pascoe. She and her husband, John Pascoe, were trapped near their Santa Rosa hilltop home due to a wildfire that had broken out and was rapidly spreading.
The couple told their story to the L.A. Times. Apparently, before going to bed they had not received any alerts about evacuating. But when they awoke in the middle of the night, they could see things ablaze near them.
— Robin Abcarian (@AbcarianLAT) October 12, 2017
They tried to leave in their cars, but they only got as far as their driveway.
“It was a wall of flames,” Jan remembered.
Once they realized that evacuating wasn’t an option, they decided the neighbor’s pool was the best place they could possibly go. But, given the cold temperatures of the water, they had to wait until the last possible second to jump in the water, for risk of freezing.
As the flames reached closer and closer to the edge of the pool, the couple submerged themselves.
“We were in survival mode,” Jan told the L.A. Times.
For the next six hours, the couple dunked themselves underwater and came back up for air, waiting for it to all be over.
“We held hands,” John told the L.A. Times, “and walked out.”
They didn’t know it at the time, but they experienced a fire that has become known as the most devastating fire in the state’s history. And after hours of waiting it out, they survived.
KCRA reports the fires have destroyed nearly 3,000 homes. Sadly, the Pascoes’ home was among the residences swallowed by the flames.
What To Do If Trapped In A Wildfire
The Pascoes are among the extremely lucky who have survived the Santa Rosa wildfire. But was their method of survival the best possible method?
According to Readyforwildfire.org, there are different ways to handle being trapped in a wildfire depending on where you are.
For example, if you’re in your car, you should park in an area free of vegetation and close your windows and vents. Then cover yourself with a blanket and lie on the floor of your vehicle.
If you’re in your home, then don’t go near windows and doors. Also, place yourself away from outside walls. You should fill your sinks and tubs with water. The water can help if you need to put out small fires or if you need access to clean, drinkable water.
But the Country Fire Authority notes a pool or other body of water can be used as an ultimate last resort. The reason why waiting out a fire in a body of water outdoors may not be the safest is due to the amount of radiant heat and smoke you’ll be exposed to when you do.
Of course, the safest plan is to evacuate the area as soon as possible.
How To Prepare For A Wildfire
Preparedness is also key. Readyforwildfire.org and the Country Fire Authority also have instructions for how to prepare your home, car, an emergency kit in case of a wildfire. No one ever wants to need to use these tools. However, being ready ahead a natural disaster can save previous time to keep your family safe.