Unable to Flee Wildfire, California Mom Offers Her Newborn to a Stranger

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, on the morning of Nov. 8, mom of three Rachelle Sanders was recuperating at the Feather River Hospital in Paradise, California, just after the birth of her infant son, Lincoln, via C-section. A nurse hurried into Sanders’ room and explained that one of the ferocious California wildfires was threatening to envelop the hospital and that evacuation was necessary.

Sanders could not walk, let alone run. She was placed in a wheelchair with the baby on her lap, then loaded into the vehicle of a Feather River Hospital employee — with her IV dangling from the rear-view mirror. The employee’s name was David. As Sanders and David attempted to make their way to safety from the blaze of what is now being called the Camp Fire, they found themselves stuck in terrible gridlock. All around them, propane tanks from nearby properties exploded. According to CNN, Sanders’ description of the horror was a “windstorm of fire.”

The flames melted David’s car’s taillights as they watched others leaving their cars on the road.

“I thought I wasn’t going to make it, for sure,” Sanders said to CNN. “I wasn’t sure any of us were going to make it. It was very, very terrifying.”

The fire raged closer to Sanders and David in his car. Sanders told him, “If it comes down to it, if you have to run, take the baby,” Sanders, speaking to the Chronicle, said she told her rescuer (whose last name she has yet to learn). “Leave me behind.”

David pressed on, changing route and making multiple U-turns as the fire closed in, trying to find a path to safety. Sanders spotted her home as they fled. The home was in ruins, with only the chimney still standing.

With nowhere else to go, Sanders and David managed to get back to the hospital, which was still accessible. She was soon thereafter relocated to Enloe Medical Center in Chico, California.

Sanders’ husband, Chris, and her two older children were also able to escape the flames and remained unharmed. In the aftermath of the harrowing experience, Sanders said CNN: “Never have I had a Thanksgiving come where I have had so little and felt more thankful and blessed.”

We hope Sanders and her Good Samaritan, David, are reunited — and she gets to add him to her holiday greeting card list. If that’s not a bonding experience, we don’t know what is.

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