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Nurse Drove Melting Truck Through California Wildfires to Save People

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The fires raging across the Golden State have left thousands of acres decimated and as many as 44 people dead. Many of those who died were lost in the evacuation itself. Survivors have posted images of their cars, some of which have melted in the heat. As this story show, some of the vehicles fared better than others.

“Here’s my @toyotausa commercial. This truck literally saved my life today. My little town of Paradise was literally burning down around me and @the_pandra got me to safety where I could help others…twice. #campfire #perfectmarshmellow #meltedplastics #buttecountyfire #sema2019 thanks to the fire fighters, law enforcement and my fellow healthcare workers for the work we all did getting the hospital evacuated and our patients to safety.”

Allyn Pierce had nicknamed his truck the Pandra. Pierce is a nurse who oversaw the ICU of Adventist’s Health, the hospital that burned in Paradise, California. Unlike many who escaped the fire, Pierce went back in to rescue others. He made it out again, thanks–in large part–to his truck.

Reporter Jack Nicas covered the story for the New York Times.

“Like many residents in Paradise, they quickly hit gridlock. But unfortunately for them, they were stuck in the middle of the fire. Flames licked at the side of his truck, and as Allyn watched other cars catch fire, he thought his was next. Here was his view.”

Allyn held his coat against the window – a futile guard from the intense heat – and put on Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” to calm himself. He recorded a goodbye message to his family: “Just in case this doesn’t work out, I want you to know I really tried to make it out.”

“Suddenly a bulldozer appeared & knocked a burning truck next to him out of the way. There was some room to maneuver. But instead of going forward toward safety, he turned around & drove back into the heart of Paradise. Here’s the aftermath of his Tacoma. (The lights still work.)”

“Allyn ended up back at the hospital and quickly realized injured Paradise residents were also there, looking for medical help. ‘Now all of us are like, ‘Oh, this is what we do,’ he recalled. ‘We’re terrible at burning to death, but we’re amazing at taking care of people.'”

Once he was back at the hospital, he began doing what nurses do. He worked to save the patients. There were others with him, too, and together the team took care of the final elements of the evacuation.

“Allyn stressed the triage was a massive group effort — and that they weren’t heroes. ‘This is what we do,’ he said. ‘Any nurse, any healthcare worker, any cop, they were there and they all did their jobs.'”

Those statements seem too easy in the aftermath of this sort of heroism. While many worked to get themselves out, Pierce went back for others–for strangers. Together with his colleagues, they saved lives.

After the image of the truck gained viral attention, Toyota weighed in and offered to provide Pierce with a new truck.

The Pandra, as the truck was nicknamed, had a lot of modifications to it.

The comment section on the Instagram feed are full of others helping to get the new Pandra back into shape.

While not all of the stories from the fire are ending so optimistically, this one is providing many with hope.