RVers helped rescue Paradise residents on foot trying to flee the horrific onslaught of the fire that devastated their town and took lives.
The couple, Jane Latham and Ed Van Der Linden, were themselves trying to escape from the flames in Northern California but were soon rescuing people off the road Thursday morning. Their motorhome’s “band of vagrants” proved to be a rescue vehicle for several people caught up in the chaos as hundreds of residents fled the conflagration that would take their town of Paradise.
Van Der Linden said he was getting ready to make a plate of eggs for breakfast when they got the call to evacuate from their home at an RV park in Paradise, reported USA Today.
They grabbed their cat, Babou, and a few supplies and Van Der Linden got behind the wheel of their motorhome. Jane Latham followed him in her car.
The Camp Fire initially started out as a report of a 15-acre fire, but quickly grew to several thousand acres as it churned through dry brush and trees, pushed by high winds. By Thursday night, the wildfire had grown to 20,000 acres and was still spreading.
Residents fleeing the fire described panic and chaos as the few roads out of Paradise were jammed with cars and trucks.
As they drove in bumper-to-bumper traffic, they saw a man walking along the road with his dog and carrying luggage.
A woman directing traffic ran up to the motorhome and asked Van Der Linden if he could give the man and his dog a ride out of town.
“So everybody piled in and we headed on down the road,” Van Der Linden said.
They stopped at the VFW hall in town thinking they were safe, but someone told them they needed to keep moving because the fire was still coming. As they were leaving, another man ran up to them and asked if they could take two more elderly residents, he said.
“He actually had to walk through the flames to carry them out,” Van Der Linden said.
The couple had trouble walking, so Van Der Linden and the other man carried them into the motorhome. Latham said she only got their first names – Boris, who was 102 years old, and Jackie, who was 92.
On their way down the hill out of Paradise to Chico, they saw destruction and fire all around them, Latham said. They had to drive around utility poles that had burned and fallen into the roadway.
Eventually the whole troupe made it to Chico and camped Thursday afternoon in the Chico Mall parking lot with numerous others who had fled.