Dane Cummings, a waste management garbage collector, was on his route Thursday morning when he was told to evacuate. But he continued on his route in order to make sure people he knew got out safely.
One of those people was his friend, 93-year-old Margaret Newsum. She hadn’t evacuated yet, because she was unaware how rapidly the Camp fire was moving toward her home in Biggs, California.
“The fire was wiping the town of Paradise,” Newsum says. “It was moving so fast that people were moving out and leaving everything behind.”
Soon, the power was off, and phones weren’t working.
“There was nobody I could call,” she says. “Nobody was there; they were all gone.”
Well, almost everyone.
“I knew my fear was over with when I saw him in that truck,” Newsum says. “And I knew when he says, ‘You’re going with me’ that he meant it, and I didn’t argue with him.”
Cummings strapped Newsum’s walker to the truck and carried her to his truck. Then, the pair embarked on a 5-hour drive unlike anything they’ve ever experienced.
“The smoke, you thought you were stepping in to hell. It was jet black, and you could see it dropping down on the highway. He said, ‘That’s hell. We’re going to hell.’ And I said, No, we’re gonna make it. Just keep going!”
The experience has made the two closer than ever.
“He’s an angel. I love him to death,” Newsum says.
“Makes you feel good when you make people happy,” Cummings says.