A cul de sac in Santa Rosa, California illustrates the devastation wrought by wildfires in the Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties
A cul de sac in Santa Rosa, California illustrates the devastation wrought by wildfires in the Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties JOHN G. MABANGLO

Couple survived fires in the pool

A MARRIED couple from California managed to survive six hours in their neighbour's pool while their entire neighbourhood was engulfed by wildfires, a report says.

Jan Pascoe, 65, and husband, John, 70, were trapped outside their home in Santa Rose on Monday when they made the fateful decision to seek shelter in the blackened, debris-filled pool next door, according to the LA Times.

With houses burning down all around them, and the flames inching closer, they were able to hide from the deadly heat and embers thanks to their quick thinking.

"We are going to get into the neighbours' pool, should we do this?'” Jan remembered telling a 911 dispatcher.

"The heat was 'whoa,'” recalled John.

The couple had been watching the wildfires feverishly from inside their mountaintop home before they eventually went outside in the attempt to escape about 12.40am on Monday local time, LA Times reports.

"We were in survival mode,” Jan told the newspaper, explaining how they first jumped in their car and tried speeding away, to no avail.

"It was a wall of flames,” she said, describing the end of their driveway.

"What are we going to do? What are we going to do?”

Fearing the worst, Jan and her husband thought of their neighbour's pool and quickly made a run for it.

"You've got to calm down, Jan,” she told herself. "You can't go underwater and hyperventilate.”

It was several hours past midnight - and the wind was reportedly howling.

"We were freezing,” Jan said. But they had to move quick.

"Jump in now,” John ordered, after stripping off his pants and jacket.

All Jan was wearing was a tank top and pyjama bottoms. She said her glasses disappeared the minute she hit the water.

"I just kept going under,” Jan explained. "And I kept saying, 'How long does it take for a house to burn down?'”

In order to protect themselves from the smoke and embers, the Pascoes used T-shirts to hold over their faces while bobbing in and out of the water.

"I thought someone would come to get us,” Jan said. But no one came.

Luckily for her and her husband, though, The pool was just 1.2m deep all the way across, making it easy to stay submerged.

The couple wound up staying in the water for about six hours, according to the Times.

They reportedly held each other to stay warm and stood back-to-back to stay awake.

When they got out, Jan's shoes and personal belongings that she left by the pool were melted - and everything around them, including their home and their neighbours' homes, was destroyed.

"We held hands,” John said, "and walked out.”

The wildfires in northern California have killed at least 31 people - making this the deadliest single week of wildfires in state history.

The blazes broke out on Sunday night, with more than a dozen being reported since.

- Chris Perez, New York Post

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