A couple have told how they spent six hours in a swimming pool to escape an inferno that completely surrounded them in California.
Jan and John Pascoe, who live in the Santa Rosa hills, were woken up around midnight on Saturday by a frantic call from their daughter, Zoe Giraudo, who said her father-in-law’s home 40 miles from where they live had burned down. She told her parents to get out of the house.
They put their 17-year-old cat into the back of their car and headed for the road — but a wall of fire blocked their exit.
Jan told the LA Times: ‘It was a wall of flames. We were in survival mode. What are we going to do? What are we going to do?’
They drove back up to the house and sought refuge by the neighbor’s pool. The cat darted out of the car and has not been seen since.
Flames were quickly closing in when suddenly the child safety netting around the pool caught alight.
John said: ‘The heat was “whoa”.’ He stripped off everything apart from a T-shirt and told Jan to jump in.
The water was cold, but outside was furiously hot. They watched their neighbor’s home go up in flames as they worried about unknown propane gas tanks and other flammable objects that could have potentially been just yards away.
Jan slid her phone inside one of her shoes and left them on the poolside. It quickly melted.
The pair spent hours in the water, holding each other to keep warm. Six hours had past when the fire finally showed signs of abating.
By that time, John’s clothes had blown away and he was naked from the waist down. He had to fashion a diaper out of his wife’s tank top.
They eventually got out of the pool and climbed the small hill leading to their home to see it in ruins. The entire area had been completely destroyed.
The couple were later reunited with their daughter who was preparing for the worst after she was unable to contact them.
The California wildfire death toll has now climbed to 31.
Firefighters continue to battle more than 20 blazes across the state. Flames have torn through nearly 200,000 acres of land and has destroyed 3,500 buildings in its way.
More than 20,000 people have been forced to evacuate and hundreds are still reported missing.