She added, "I just have to keep going, that's all I could think. I just have to keep going, because nobody else will come in and save me.
Erin McLaughlin and her 81-year-old neighbor Elisabeth Mesones left their homes in Magalia, north of paradise on Thursday morning. But after just a few minutes on a street known as Skyway, they encounter block traffic. The sky darkened, the smoke became thicker and they could see small fires around them. But they could not move.
Ms. McLaughlin, 58, was trapped outside of Paradise, watching as some other motorists commanded a Pepsi truck as a shelter against which they later decided. The conditions worsened and everyone heard propane tanks explode on all sides.
"Everything was burning around you," she said. "It was the scariest thing I've ever seen."
The fire never reached them before they escaped. On a tour through Paradise on Sunday, however, showed that the fire has finally arrived. The restaurant was burnt down.
The evacuations also led to moments of heroism.
Mr. Pierce, the registered nurse, did not leave Paradise right after the dismissal of his car. Instead, he returned to Adventist Health Feather River, where he ran the intensive care unit. He and several colleagues started treating injured neighbors. When the hospital caught fire, they took patients and equipment about 100 yards away to the helipad of the hospital. Finally, everyone did it.
But now, even in safety with his family, Pierce said his near-death experience will stay with him. "It's totally traumatic," he said. "When I close my eyes at night, I see fire."