Family survives Camp Fire by sheltering in a Rite Aid

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Many evacuees of The Camp Fire were forced to find whatever shelter they could to escape the flames. One man said his family and many neighbors hid inside a drug store while the fire burned everything around the building.

"People are just panicking right now," said Shawn Waslewski in cell phone video that he took last Thursday.

MAPS: A look at the Camp Fire in Butte County and other California fires

Waslewski documented his family's slow escape, as the Camp Fire climbed towards their homes in Magalia, which is northeast of Paradise.

Recording his pickup truck and camper trailer in his family's neighborhood, Waslewski said, "I got a quarter tank of diesel, so I'm not trying to sit around in traffic."

Waslewski spoke to ABC7 via Skype on Tuesday from an Airbnb that his family is renting, since their homes burned to the ground. Waslewski says Magalia lost power the morning of the fire, so the gas pumps weren't working and he didn't think he had enough fuel to safely drive out of town, so he and his girlfriend, parents and sisters evacuated to a nearby Rite Aid.

"I knew that was a safe zone. There weren't any trees around, it was a brick building," said Waslewski, who has spent some time as a seasonal firefighter in Montana.

Waslewski says he and his girlfriend and dogs went to bed in his camper, which they parked next to the Rite Aid. Then at 1 a.m., the fire woke them up.

"Every single ember that was coming over our heads, over Rite Aid, was essentially starting spot fires across the street and mobile homes and I mean every single ember was starting an acre fire."

Waslewski says firefighters quickly showed up and broke into the Rite Aid, so that about 30 people could shelter inside for several hours, while the firefighters made sure the drug store didn't catch fire.

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"Many of the people inside the Rite Aid actually lived across the street and they were literally seeing their houses burn right in front of them," said Waslewski.

After a 3:00 a.m. meeting in the cracker aisle, Waslewski said firefighters explained to the evacuees how to safely drive out of town.

Waslewski recorded from behind the wheel of his pickup truck as he drove down a smoldering road and said, "Magalia's gone."

See more stories, photos and videos on the Camp Fire in Butte County.
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