This nurse drove through a wall of fire to save his patients during the deadliest blaze in California history.
He turned up the radio in his truck and prepared to be burned alive.
via Josh Edelson / Getty Images
The Camp Fire in northern California has become the deadliest in the state’s history. Forty-eight people died in the blaze and a hundred are still missing. Estimates show the total damage could surpass over $200 billion dollars.
While the fire has produced countless stories of heartbreak and loss, stories of courage and human kindness are beginning to emerge as a silver lining to the tragedy.
Allyn Pierce of Paradise, California — a town reduced to ash by the fire — is a nurse and intensive care unit manager at Adventist Health. His incredible bravery in the face of death was recently chronicled on Twitter by Jack Nicas of The New York Times.
Here's the crazy story of just one of the many heroes in Paradise, the town destroyed by California's deadliest fire ever. His name is Allyn Pierce, and he's the badass nurse who drove this truck through the flames. pic.twitter.com/xAL7zRf34H— Jack Nicas (@jacknicas) November 13, 2018\n
Pierce and his co-workers evacuated patients at their hospital to save them from the oncoming fire.
Allyn manages the ICU at Paradise's hospital, Adventist Health, and helped spark the quick evacuation of patients Thursday morning as the #CampFire swept in. Then he hopped in his truck with two colleagues and headed for safety.— Jack Nicas (@jacknicas) November 13, 2018\n
On the way to safety, Piece and two colleagues got stuck in traffic and his Ttruck was enveloped by flames.
Like many residents in Paradise, they quickly hit gridlock. But unfortunately for them, they were stuck in the middle of the fire. Flames licked at the side of his truck, and as Allyn watched other cars catch fire, he thought his was next. Here was his view. pic.twitter.com/2fACEWn4tu— Jack Nicas (@jacknicas) November 13, 2018\n
Pierce and his co-workers prepared to die in the fire.
Allyn held his coat against the window - a futile guard from the intense heat - and put on Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” to calm himself. He recorded a goodbye message to his family: “Just in case this doesn’t work out, I want you to know I really tried to make it out."— Jack Nicas (@jacknicas) November 13, 2018\n
But help came from out of nowhere.
Suddenly a bulldozer appeared & knocked a burning truck next to him out of the way. There was some room to maneuver. But instead of going forward toward safety, he turned around & drove back into the heart of Paradise. Here's the aftermath of his Tacoma. (The lights still work.) pic.twitter.com/LLUU1fDfYv— Jack Nicas (@jacknicas) November 13, 2018\n
Instead of driving to safety, Pierce and his workers returned to the hospital to find more people had arrived looking for medical attention. So they got right back to work.
Allyn ended up back at the hospital and quickly realized injured Paradise residents were also there, looking for medical help. “Now all of us are like, ‘Oh, this is what we do,’” he recalled. “We're terrible at burning to death, but we're amazing at taking care of people.”— Jack Nicas (@jacknicas) November 13, 2018\n
Doctors, nurses, paramedics & police started a triage center in the hospital parking lot. They broke into the hospital for gurneys, oxygen tanks & other gear & quickly went to work, treating about two dozen people while the fire raged around them. Photo: Noah Berger/AP. pic.twitter.com/SOOZidkfOF— Jack Nicas (@jacknicas) November 13, 2018\n
The hospital caught fire so the nurses and staff moved the patients to its helipad for safety.
Then the hospital caught fire. The team quickly relocated the patients 100 yards away to the hospital’s helipad. Eventually authorities cleared a path to safety, so they loaded up the victims & drove out in a caravan. Everyone made it out safely.— Jack Nicas (@jacknicas) November 13, 2018\n
Photo: Jim Wilson/NYT @jwnytpic.twitter.com/9aaX6c7HSc
Allyn stressed the triage was a massive group effort -- and that they weren't heroes. “This is what we do,” he said. “Any nurse, any healthcare worker, any cop, they were there and they all did their jobs.”— Jack Nicas (@jacknicas) November 13, 2018\n
Allyn's Instagram: https://t.co/GW2L2jS97w
After hearing about Pierce’s courage in the face of death, Toyota bought him a new truck
Sadly, Pierce and his family lost everything in the fire. So after hearing of his bravery, someone in nearby Chico, California set up a GoFudeMe page for his family that has raised over $20,000.