As of this writing, Tuesday afternoon, 44 people are confirmed dead and another 200+ missing in the deadliest fires in California’s history. More than 7,000 homes and businesses have been destroyed, and that number, as well as the death toll, is certain to rise. More than 8,000 firefighters have been on the job since Thursday, and the end is not yet in sight. Today’s ‘good people’ post is dedicated to these men and women, as well as others who have been good Samaritans, have helped people in the face of this terrible tragedy. Gronda … get your tissues …
Now, I can’t bring you any personal tales of heroism from or about firefighters just yet, for these guys don’t have time to tell their stories right now … there’s still a lot of fire that needs fighting and they are working past the point of exhaustion, sleeping an hour or two, then going back at it like … well, like fighting fire. No need for personal stories … these men and women are heroes. They are trying to save lives, property and land, even pets. At last count, at least 36 of the firefighters themselves had lost everything they own to the fires. They have seen their town, their kids’ schools, their doctors’ offices, banks and neighbors’ homes turned to rubble, and yet they keep going back into that fiery inferno toting up to 75 pounds of gear and equipment. For hours, and hours with no relief. I give them the highest five I can muster. Since I don’t have their individual stories to tell just now, I am bringing some of them to you in pictures.
And then there were other heroes …
Allyn Pierce is an ICU nurse at Adventist Health in Paradise. He and other co-workers first made several trips to help evacuate patients to safety, but after the patients were all safely evacuated, he and his two colleagues were heading to safety when suddenly they found themselves gridlocked in traffic, unable to move, with fire surrounding them on all sides. This is the view from inside his truck …Flames licked at the side of his truck, and as Allyn watched other cars catch fire, he thought his was next. He even recorded a message for his family, “Just in case this doesn’t work out, I want you to know I really tried to make it out.”
Out of the smoke, there appeared a bulldozer that cleared a small space, but instead of going forward to safety … Allyn, who had already resigned himself to possibly dying, turned around and headed back into Paradise to see if he could help others! Back at the hospital, he found that many of the townspeople had gone there seeking help, safety … refuge. So, he gathered a crew … doctors, nurses, police, paramedics … anyone willing to lend a hand, and they set up a triage center about 100 yards from the burning hospital where they did the best they could for people while waiting … for what? Eventually, firefighters arrived and were able to clear a path and escort those at the triage center to safety. Allyn’s only casualty was his truck … it melted.But the story doesn’t end here. Pierce would later find out that he had lost his home to the fire. After his story was told on an ABC News affiliate station, he was writing about his experience on Facebook when there was a comment from @toyotausa:
“We are humbled you’d risk your life and Toyota Tundra to drive people to safety. Don’t worry about your truck, we’re honoured to get you a new one.”
Paradise Unified School District middle school was about to fall victim to the Camp Fire on Thursday. The children were already at school when science teacher Mark Kessler heard propane tanks nearby exploding due to the excessive heat and he knew it was time to evacuate. But how to get the hundreds of children out quickly and to safety?
Teachers, aides and bus drivers went into action, loading children into their own vehicles, buses, whatever vehicle was available. A sheriff’s deputy directed them to the nearby town of Chico and told them to cram as many as they could into each vehicle and “seatbelt laws don’t apply”. Even though the town of Chico was typically about a 20-minute drive, on this day it would take them several hours, plowing through smoke, burning debris, and flames on gridlocked country roads. According to Kessler …
“There were trees burning on the side of the road. The smoke was so thick you couldn’t see. We had very traumatized teachers who were certain they were going to die in the car with their students.”
All of these people had homes and families in jeopardy from the fire, but instead of seeing to their own, they saw to these young students, brought them to safety and by Friday morning had re-united all with their parents. How very brave and dedicated these men and women were.
I have no doubt that from the ashes will emerge hundreds of stories of extraordinary courage, acts of bravery … it is these that we should remember when the world shows us its darker side … these are the real people, the humanitarians who, when the chips are down, put others before themselves. These are the people doing the good things, while others sit back and find fault. Thank you again to the men and women who are fighting so long and hard to save lives, homes and property.