Elderly Camp Fire survivor talks about her escape one year later

ROSEVILLE, Calif. (KTXL) – This week marks one year since the deadly Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise.

While there were many stories about the rebuilding efforts there, the simple truth is many people will not be going back.

FOX40’s Doug Johnson spoke with one such woman who, in her 90s, was able to drive herself to safety with only the clothes on her back.

Like many who survived, the idea of going back there is simply too much to bear. Emily said, “Oh it was horrible. Haha!”

While she can laugh about it now, the 94 year old, who didn’t want us to use her last name, said escaping Paradise on November 8th, 2018 was a horrific ordeal.

At first, she saw the smoke coming from her mobile home in Apple Tree Village. “We could see the fire you know the trees, there were a lot of trees around,” she explained. “And then I couldn’t get anything out of the telephone, everything was shut off.”

So she got in her car and left. But she was not alone. It wasn’t long before she was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic only going about 20 miles-per-hour as the Camp Fire burned ever closer.
“On the sides of the road, one place where we had to go by that was fire you know, so it was bad,” Emily said.

Meanwhile, Emily’s son, Mike said all of her relatives were desperately trying to find her. “I called my mother’s phone number, her home phone, she didn’t answer,” Mike explained. “Everyone was evacuating the town. So we were all kind of in a panic.”

Eventually, Emily made it to Oroville where she was able to use the phone at a restaurant.

Mike said, “We were really proud of her. She drove out of there with fire on both sides of her car at the age of 93.”

But her home and all of her belongings are now gone. Paradise has been her home since 1974.

“It was a wonderful little town and I was getting along fine,” Emily said. “Didn’t seem like there would be a fire like that.”

But now, living at the Roseville Commons Retirement Home, she said she’ll never go back. “I wouldn’t want to because I don’t know, they could have another fire,” she said.

And Emily is not the only one who won’t go back. Her other son and granddaughter also lost their homes in Paradise. They’ve moved to Oregon and Chico.

Many others say it’s just not worth the risk.

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