Fires in the west have killed more than 30 people. The conflagrations are moving fast, and destroying everything in their paths. There are incredible stories of survival, though, rising up from the ashes. This is one. Jan and John Pascoe took shelter from the flames in their neighbor’s swimming pool.
Jan Pascoe shared the story with the Los Angeles Times. Jan is 65. Her husband is 70. Late Sunday evening, they’d checked the position of the fire. It was more than 11 miles away. Friends and family had encouraged them to evacuate, but they waited. The sky was clear, they couldn’t see flames. So they decided they would stick around a while and wait.
Yet with the speed of the fire, they found they’d waited too long to evacuate. It was past midnight on Monday night in Santa Rosa, California when they saw the first flames. Their escape routes were already blocked. They drive down to where the road was blocked, but had to go back home.
“I looked out the window,” Jan said, “and all I saw was a red glow. I said, ‘John, we’ve got to get out of here.’ ”
The pool seemed to be the safest place. When Jan called 911, she told them that was where they would be. “Please. We will be in the pool,” Jan told the dispatcher. “This is where we are.””In my naivete, all night long,” she said, “I thought someone would come to get us.”
The heat built quickly as everything around them caught fire, even the neighbor’s house.
“The heat was ‘whoa,’ ” John said. He stripped off his pants and jacket, and wearing only a T-shirt, turned to Jan and said, “Jump in now.”
The situation must have been surreal. The water was cold. Prolonged exposure meant a risk of hypothermia. Above the water, the air was filled with smoke and flaming debris. Fires like these often produce their own weather and spawn cyclonic winds that pick up debris like tornadoes.
“I just kept going under,” Jan said. “And I kept saying, ‘How long does it take for a house to burn down?’ We were freezing.”
Six hours later, they emerged from the pool. Their clothes were gone. John had on a wet t shirt. He made wrapped himself up in his wife’s wet tank-top and made his way up to see the damage. Everything was gone. Their house had burned. Their vehicles. Their neighborhood. Everything had burned.
The time in the pool, though, had saved their lives. “We held hands,” John said, “and walked out.”