Thousands of people have fled their California communities in the face of rampant, destructive wildfires. But not everyone in the fires’ paths left. At Slate, April Glaser spends time with people who wouldn’t or couldn’t leave their homes — because they had loved ones who couldn’t move, because they wanted to try to save their homes, because the fires bore down too fast, because if they leave now they won’t be allowed back — and are trying their best to protect their families and communities.
“Time is different for me right now,” said Jeff Evans, who prevented fires from engulfing his home, where he remains now with parents Chuck, 91, and Janet, 82. Living with them are eight dogs Jeff rescued from all over their backcountry town of Concow, plus three dogs of his own. The Evanses are surviving off of a gas-guzzling generator. Jeff described how on the day the fire started, after things had calmed enough that Chuck could take care of any spot fires still threatening the property, he canvassed the area to look for others who could use assistance: “So I said I’m going to go up the road and see if I can help anybody. So, I went up Hoffman Road, and you saw the vehicles there on the side of the road?”
I did see the cars. They were lined up on the shoulder, adjacent to a lake, and had pink plastic ribbons tied to their side mirrors. Those ribbons, Evans told me, meant that there were no bodies inside and no need for further inspection. “That’s where most of the dogs came from—those cars,” he said. The cars parked there were abandoned with their keys inside by people fleeing their homes only to drive straight into a firestorm that was barreling down Concow Road, forcing them to jump into the lake and swim across for refuge.