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They survived six hours in pool as wildfire burned their neighborhood to ground

Robin Abcarian, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

SANTA ROSA, Calif. -- Jan Pascoe and her husband, John, were trapped. The world was on fire, and Jan was hyperventilating from fear. Then they remembered their neighbors' pool.

"You've got to calm down, Jan," she told herself. "You can't go underwater and hyperventilate."

At 12:40 a.m. Monday, Jan called 911. She reached a dispatcher.

"We are going to get into the neighbors' pool, should we do this?"

The dispatcher said, "Get anywhere safe."

"Please. We will be in the pool," Jan replied. "This is where we are."

"In my naivete, all night long," she would tell me later, "I thought someone would come to get us."

Jan, 65, and her husband, John, 70, debated when to get in. She wanted to right away, but John said, "Hold off. The water's cold. Let's see what happens."

As they stood at the edge of the pool, the neighbors' house caught fire. A big tree next to the pool went up in flames. The railroad ties framing the concrete steps leading to the pool ignited.

"The heat was 'whoa,' " John said. He stripped off his pants and jacket, and wearing only a T-shirt, turned to Jan and said, "Jump in now."

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