In late July nearly half of the 92,000 residents of Redding California were forced to evacuate.
More than 1,600 homes – businesses and other structures burned in the Carr fire – due to sparks thrown by a trailer wheel with a flat tire.
But the cause hardly matters; it was 113F that day and the land was primed for fire.
Seven people were killed – three of them firefighters but when survivors tell of their escapes it seems a miracle there weren’t many more.
A local dentist – surprised by the flames in the gated community of Stanford Hills – fled for her life through the woods.
Disoriented – with no idea where to go – she and her husband followed the animals – deer – rabbits and squirrels – as they fled downhill toward the Sacramento river.
Several of her neighbors were rescued by helicopter.
Another neighbor – a retired homicide detective named Steve Bustillos – was preparing to evacuate when he noted an ominous breath-like quality to the rising wind.
It was the fire drawing oxygen into itself – so powerfully that it made the seals in his house whistle.
When Bustillos stepped outside he saw the air rippling ‘like when you open an oven door’.
A moment later the air itself appeared to burst into flames.
Trees and houses followed – igniting spontaneously in the superheated air.
Bustillos escaped in his pickup- but the fire caught him on Buenaventura boulevard – a kilometre from his home.
His pickup was heavy – over three tonnes – but it was moved off the road.
After the passenger window blew out and the truck caught fire Bustillos managed to exit the vehicle and take refuge under a nearby bulldozer.