Former Hawaii family narrowly escapes Northern California fire
The fire forced a chaotic evacuation of most of the town's 27,000 residents.
Paradise, CA - The Camp Fire in Paradise, California, forced a chaotic evacuation of most of the town's 27,000 residents.
Former Hawaii residents Maxine Wong and her sons are among them. Wong shot a photo from their truck and describes a horrifying scene of pandemonium and fear as the fire spread quickly.
"It was just really scary... It was a matter of 10 minutes. There were fires on the right and left of us. We moved 50 feet and we were at a dead stop," she said.
Wong and two of her sons jumped into a neighbor's truck and evacuated. Her husband and other son were safe elsewhere in town. But on the evacuation route, swirling flames built into a fire tornado, a rare natural phenomena that trapped them and hundreds of others.
"You heard this, Whoooosh coming through like a wind tunnel. Then you could hear cars and electrical boxes exploding. People were crying. Cars started catching on fire, melting, and it was four hours we were stuck there," she said.
Their clothes started catching on fire from the smoldering ashes. For four hours, they sat there, they thought this was it.
"I called to say goodbye to my husband, tell my mom I love her, and I'm going to be with my dad, who I just lost a few months ago," Wong said.
Her father is former Society of 7 singer Alfredo Romero, who died this summer.
"My little boy said, 'Mom, we're going to die.' I couldn't comfort him. I said, 'We're going to be with Papa soon,'" Wong said.
But then, a fireman came up, just in time, and told them to wait in the relative safety of this parking lot.
"We felt like we were going to pass out already. The crackling was happening," she described.
Although she's still in shock just 24 hours after her brush with death, she's optimistic.
"I got my kids. So when we move forward, I feel cleansed. I feel like I'm going to be OK," Wong said.
They have a Go Fund Me account to help rebuild their lives. The link is: https://www.gofundme.com/wong-family-new-start-fund.