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California Fire Death Toll Now at 44 with the discovery of 13 more bodies

She added: "I just have to go on, that's all I can imagine. I just have to keep driving, because…

She added: “I just have to go on, that’s all I can imagine. I just have to keep driving, because if I do not, nobody will come in and save me.”

Erin McLaughlin and her 81-year-old Elisabeth Mesones left their homes in Magalia, north of paradise, on Thursday morning. But after a few minutes along a road called Skyway they hit the gridlock traffic. The sky was darkened, the smoke was thickening and they could see small fires breaking around them. But they could not move.

Captivated in Traffic Outside Paradise, McLaughlin, 58, saw that several other drivers commanded a Pepsi truck to use as a protection they later decided. The conditions deteriorated, and they heard that propane tanks exploded in all directions.

“The next thing we hear is,” Get out of your vehicle and run, “said Ms. McLaughlin.

About 75 drivers hurried to the parking lot at a nearby Chinese restaurant. For the next six hours they camped out there

“Everything was burning around you,” she said. “It was the most scary thing I’ve ever seen.”

The fire never reached them before they could fly. But a trip to paradise on Sunday revealed that the fire eventually arrived. The restaurant had burned down.

Evacuation also resulted in heroism.

Mr. Pierce, the registered nurse, did not stop leaving paradise soon after his truck was released. He instead went back to the main hospital Adventist Health Feather River, where he manages intensive care. He and some colleagues started treating injured neighbors. When the hospital broke up, they moved patients and equipment about 100 meters away to the hospital helicopter ter. Eventually everyone took it out.

But now, even in security with his family, Pierce said that his near death’s experience will be with him. “It’s completely traumatic,” he said. “When I close my eyes at night, I see fire.”

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