As Fire Raged, Calif. Couple Hid in Pool for 6 Hours

Death toll now at 31; emergency far from over
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 13, 2017 4:36 AM CDT
Couple Sheltered in Pool for 6 Hours to Survive Wildfire
A Cal Fire air tanker makes a fire retardant drop on a wildfire as the pilot protects structures in Geyserville, Calif., on Thursday. Crews were able to save all the structures.   (Kent Porter/The Press Democrat via AP)

The confirmed death toll from the California wildfires is now at least 31—and it would probably be two higher if Jan and John Pascoe hadn't remembered their neighbors' pool. The couple, trapped as flames surrounded their mountaintop Santa Rosa home, ended up spending six hours sheltering in the water as the fire raged around them, the Los Angeles Times reports. Jan, 65, says they tried to drive away but encountered a "wall of flames." They fled to the pool when a 911 dispatcher advised them to shelter anywhere they could. John, 70, was initially reluctant to enter the cold water, but he jumped in after the flames ignited both the neighbors' home and a tree next to the pool.

The Pascoes say they held each other all night in the pool, staying under the surface as much as they could to avoid flying embers and debris. When they emerged, they found that their home and the neighbors' home had burned to the ground—and a phone Jan had left in a sock next to the pool had melted. Santa Rosa is in Sonoma County, where authorities identified 10 of 17 victims Thursday, most of them in their 70s or 80s, the AP reports. Hundreds are listed as missing in what is already the deadliest fire outbreak in the state for at least 80 years. Authorities say the emergency is far from over, with 21 fires still burning and new evacuation orders still being issued. (In Napa County, a couple who'd been married for 75 years are among the wildfire victims.)

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