Couple survived for 6 hours in pool as California wildfire raged around them
By NBC News
A California couple, unable to evacuate their area, scrambled to a neighbor's property as a wildfire began to incinerate their surroundings shortly after midnight on Monday morning.
The wildfires that have killed at least 31 people and become the deadliest in state history began to burn down the neighbor's house. John Pascoe, 70, and his wife, Jan, 65, decided the only way to save themselves was to jump into the neighbor's pool.
Jan called 911 and told the dispatcher that the two of them were going in the pool.
"In my naivete, all night long, I thought someone would come to get us,'' she said.
John jumped in the pool wearing only a T-shirt, while Jan had on a tank top and pajama bottoms. Thankfully the pool was no deeper than 4 feet across, so they didn't have to tread water as they repeatedly submerged themselves.
A fierce wind howled, embers flew in the air and explosions could be heard as the couple waited seemingly endlessly for the home to burn and the fire to move on. It took six hours.
"I just kept going under,'' Jan said. "And I kept saying, 'How long does it take for a house to burn down?' We were freezing."
Less than three hours earlier, they had been enjoying a beautiful October night on the deck of their home in Santa Rosa with no sign of impending danger.
They went to bed shortly after 10 p.m. after receiving no official alerts. Their daughter called to tell them her father-in-law's home 40 miles away had burned down and that maybe they should evacuate.
Then she called again at midnight urging them to leave. They looked out the window and saw the fire in the distance.
When they tried to drive away in separate trucks, they were confronted by a wall of flames blocking the main road, so they retreated to their home before running to the neighbor's property.
After the terrifying night in the pool, the Pascoes walked back to their home to find it completely burned along with their SUV and truck. It's one of more than 3,500 homes and structures that have been destroyed by wildfires in California's wine country.
Their two daughters prepared themselves for the worst after not hearing from them all night because Jan's cell phone had been melted by the fire.
The Sonoma County Sheriff told reporters Thursday night that more than 400 people are still missing. Thanks to some quick thinking and good fortune, the Pascoes are not part of that group.
At about 8:30 a.m. Monday, they were able to tell their daughters they made it through alive.
"I started screaming," their daughter, Zoe Giraudo, 38, told the Los Angeles Times. "The first thing mom said to me was 'I feel so bad I wasn’t able to get a hold of you.' 'You’re apologizing to me? After all you’ve been through?'''