November 13, 2018

"Allyn Pierce was trapped by a wall of fire as he tried to flee the flames coming closer and closer to his truck... 'I was like, I think I’m done'..."

"... said Mr. Pierce, a registered nurse who was trapped in traffic in Paradise, Calif., where most of the community was burned. 'I just kept thinking, I’m going to die in melting plastic.'... Fearing he might not make it out of Paradise alive, Mr. Pierce recorded a goodbye message to his family as the town burned to the ground around him. 'Just in case this doesn’t work out, I want you to know I really tried to make it out,' he later recalled saying into his phone. He 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. Just in time, a bulldozer came out of nowhere and knocked a burning vehicle out of his way, giving him enough space to flee."

From "California Fire Death Toll Now at 44 With Discovery of 13 More Bodies" (NYT).


Love I get so lost, sometimes
Days pass and this emptiness fills my heart
When I want to run away
I drive off in my car
But whichever way I go
I come back to the place you are
All my instincts, they return
And the grand facade, so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside....
In your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
In your eyes
The resolution of all the fruitless searches
In your eyes
I see the light and the heat
In your eyes
Oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light,
The heat I see in your eyes...
What songs played in the cars where the others were hopelessly trapped and no bulldozer came out of nowhere to create a path of escape?

63 comments:

Rob said...

Althouse, why do you make me say things like this?

Johnny Cash, “Ring of Fire.”

sodal ye said...

“But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two - How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along”

Excerpt from Trump tweet a couple of hours ago. He cracks me up.

Birches said...

Do you stay in your car in a situation like that? Obviously it worked out better for him, but getting burned to death in my car seems terrible. I think I would rather try and run on foot. I wonder which one is most likely to end in death by smoke inhalation? I'd rather be dead before the burning.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm genuinely interested in what song you would play in your car if you believed you were trapped and would within 20 minutes die in melting plastic. I'm not trying to be lightheated about this. I think Pierce's choice of music was stunning and profound.

Ann Althouse said...

"Do you stay in your car in a situation like that?"

I've read many survival stories where one person stays in a car and the other goes in search of help — trapped in snow or stalled in the outback — and the one who gets out dies and the one who stayed in the car survives. The car is some protection. It's hard to make the best choice. Pierce survived because a rescuers were out there clearing the roads — in this case of a car (perhaps a car that somebody else abandoned!).

Ann Althouse said...

"I would rather try and run on foot."

Would you keep running if your clothes caught fire?

AllenS said...

You can stay in your car until the gas tank explodes.

Ryan said...

Handel's Messiah. Not because I'm religious, but because its majestic and beautiful, like life itself.

Birches said...

I'd definitely go more Titanic style, but I've always hated "Nearer My God to Thee." "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need" has has always brought tears to my eyes.

Dave Begley said...

Gloria a Te, Cristo Gesu by Andrea Bocelli

Birches said...

That said, I love "In your Eyes" and wouldn't be annoyed to hear it playing as I died.

Dave Begley said...

Followed by The White and the Blue, Creighton's fight song.

"We will fight to fight is won."

Earnest Prole said...

He felt the heat of the night
Hit him like a freight train
Moving
With a simple twist of fate

jaydub said...

Around 15 years ago I was visiting my daughter who lived in San Diego Country Estates just outside Ramona when the Cedar Fire started in Cleveland National Forrest and raced toward their development and on down to San Diego. We awoke to find fire on three sides of the development and got the hell out as fast a we could. There were two possible routes out after leaving the entrance to their development, either down Wildcat Canyon Road to Santee or through Ramona. Although Wildcat Canyon was closer, we took the road to Ramona instead for some reason. Good thing. Six or eight were killed on Wildcat Canyon Road when thick smoke suddenly made it undrivable and then the fire burned right over it. All the people who were trapped by the smoke and flames were just ahead of us or behind us. Sometimes you just have to get lucky, and we were that day.

hiawatha biscayne said...

The definitive work about trying to outrun fire would have to be, in my estimation, "Young Men And Fire," by Norman MacLean.

stevew said...

In that situation, choosing a particular song to listen to as I perished, would not be on my mind as something that I needed to do.

Fernandistein said...

Save your last bullet to use if you're about to be captured by Indians.

Birches said...

I am interested to know if he picked that song because it is calming and then realized all the fire references, or if he thought it would be relaxing to think of the fire as a mistress. I wouldn't have thought of the light and heat until I heard it and then be like, that is a little too on the nose.

Fernandistein said...

Fight fire with fire
Ending is near
Fight fire with fire
Bursting with fear
We shall die

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Song?

End of the Line

When you live in a high high fire zone like Paradise (I lived there for many years) you should haves some fire protective blankets in your car to cover yourself if you have to flee from your vehicle.

Our Volunteer Fire Dept has these on all vehicles for when they are working on wildlands protection. (Which is often)

Get to a low spot and cover yourself, throw as much dirt on top of yourself as you can.... and hope for the best. Probably won't work, but HEY...better than nothing.

Birches said...

What a crapshoot. A lot of people survived on foot, a lot of people died in their cars. I don't know if I could pass up people who were burning up in their cars. That lady would probably be dead if she stopped to help, but I'm unsure if I could do it. How horrible!

Big Mike said...

I'm genuinely interested in what song you would play in your car if you believed you were trapped and would within 20 minutes die in melting plastic.

I hope I never have to figure that out.

EDH said...

Sorry, I just can't get past the mental image of John Cusack holding a boom-box that's melting over his head.

Chris said...

If I was trapped in my car in a fire, I would want to hear Drowned by The Who.

I wanna drown
In cold water.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Wow. This fire is unbelievable.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

DBQ - excellent choice.
Ryan - Agreed.

Bob Boyd said...

Lord Almighty,
I feel my temperature rising
Higher higher
It's burning through to my soul
Girl, girl, girl
You gonna set me on fire
My brain is flaming
I don't know which way to go
Your kisses lift me higher
Like the sweet song of a choir
You light my morning sky
With burning love
Ooh, ooh, ooh,
I feel my temperature rising
Help me, I'm flaming
I must be a hundred and nine
Burning, burning, burning
And nothing can cool me
I just might turn into smoke
But I feel fine
'Cause your kisses lift me higher
Like a sweet song of a choir
And you light my morning sky
With burning love
It's coming closer
The flames are reaching my body
Please won't you help me
I feel like I'm slipping away
It's hard to breath
And my chest is a-heaving
Lord have mercy,
I'm burning a hole where I lay
'Cause your kisses lift me higher
Like the sweet song of a choir
You light my morning sky
With burning love
With burning love
Ah, ah, burning love
I'm just a hunk, a hunk of burning love
Just a hunk, a hunk of burning love
Just a hunk, a hunk of burning love
Just a hunk, a hunk of burning love
Just a hunk, a hunk of burning love
Just a hunk, a hunk of burning love

tommyesq said...

"I've read many survival stories where one person stays in a car and the other goes in search of help — trapped in snow or stalled in the outback..."

Of course, virtually all of those situations involved people being lost and wondering if they would be found before the starved/froze to death, whereas this situation involves the agent of your destruction relentlessly closing in. Not sure what the right answer is, but certainly changes the calculus a bit.

Earnest Prole said...

The death toll of this fire would have been in the thousands without the heroic work of people like the bulldozer operator.

Big Mike said...

Get to a low spot and cover yourself, throw as much dirt on top of yourself as you can.... and hope for the best. Probably won't work, but HEY...better than nothing.

@DBQ, why a low spot? Isn't toxic smoke denser than air? Or is it better to die of smoke inhalation?

And I agree with Earnest Prole.

The Drill SGT said...

My thought turned to a scene from "We were Soldiers"

LTC Hal Moore is running with his officers and teaching:

"Three strikes and you are not out. There is always one more thing you can do"

so saith DBQ.

The Drill SGT said...

@DBQ, why a low spot?

Heat rises, and the fire jumps from high spot to high spot.

FullMoon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Howard said...

Those Cal Fire dozer drivers die all the time. No wonder.

Howard said...

BM: Do the math. Hot air rises. That's why when you were a kid, you were taught to get on the floor and crawl out of a burning building. Oh, wait. I'm sorry, that's physics, not mental mathturbation.

Howard said...

Watch out you might get what you're after
Boom babies strange but not a stranger
I'm an ordinary guy
Burning down the house

Hold tight wait till the party's over
Hold tight We're in for nasty weather
There has got to be a way
Burning down the house

Here's your ticket pack your bag
Time for jumpin' overboard
The transportation is here
Close enough but not too far,
Maybe you know where you are
Fightin' fire with fire
All wet! Hey you might need a raincoat
Shakedown! Dreams walking in broad daylight
Three hun-dred six-ty five de-grees
Burning down the house

It was once upon a place sometimes I listen to myself
Gonna come in first place
People on their way to work and baby what did you except
Gonna burst into flame
My house! Is out of the ordinary
That's right! Don't wanna hurt nobody
Some things sure can sweep me off my feet
Burning down the house

No visible means of support and you have not seen nothin' yet
Everything's stuck together
And I don't know what you expect starring into the TV set
Fighting fire with fire

Songwriters: Chris Frantz / Christopher Frantz / David Byrne / Jerry Harrison / Tina Weymouth

Dust Bunny Queen said...

@DBQ, why a low spot? Isn't toxic smoke denser than air? Or is it better to die of smoke inhalation?

If you are lucky enough to find a low spot, like a gully, ditch along side a road, creek bed.....(NOT one filled with dry brush ...water would be nice however), the fire has a greater chance of skipping over you because the nature of fast moving pine forest fires, in high winds, is that they will "crown" and spread beyond you. The underbrush will also burn longer than the main fire depending on how heavily laded the floor is, but not nearly as HOT as the initial front of the fire.

The smoke, likewise will follow the wind direction and if you are behind the wind that would be a good thing. If you don't already have a fire blanket....covering yourself with as much dirt as you can also provides insulation from the heat.

Thank GOD I have never had to use this knowledge, but it is what my husband, who is an ex-volunteer fire fighter told me was his training for wild fires.

Several of my friends who still live(d) in the Paradise area and the daughter of some friends from where I now live, lost their homes. The house where I used to live is gone. Everything is gone. I doubt they will bother to rebuild. The town of Paradise is history. Heartbreaking.

FullMoon said...

DBQ, new map showing what homes are burned. Way better than satellite fire map.

Camp fire structure Status

The Drill SGT said...

oh, DBQ

I became a Westerner again last month. Not back to Oroville. CA has too many people. It's too expensive, and everybody who lives near the ocean wants to prevent anybody else from living near the ocean.

I moved to Depoe Bay, Oregon, where I have an ocean front home, million dollar views, not million dollar costs, and I'm 30 miles from the wine country, Oregon style.

Drink Ayoub Pinot Noir

Fustigator said...

Led Zeppelin -- In My Time of Dying

Seeing some of those cars with scorched paint and melted taillights making it out of the fires....without a doubt I would stay in the car. Getting out of the car means skin burning/melting in short order. To me the best chance of survival or even moving quickly away from the most concentrated area of flame and heat is in the vehicle or pushing other vehicles off the road or out of the way to at least get to the clearest possible space for survival.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Thank you for the link, Full Moon.

So much red on the map :-(

Rockeye said...

Father and Daughter https://g.co/kgs/5ohZdm
I prefer to go out with a happy thought

Expat(ish) said...

Toyota is giving him a new truck since he *melted* his old one going back to help people.

-XC

Gordon Scott said...

I think this belongs in the category of "Things that didn't happen" at the $200 level. You're trapped in a fire, seconds count, you're hoping for some kind of a gap to open up so you can drive to safety--a gap that might exist for a few seconds--and you take your eyes off the road ahead to futz around with your phone to hear a particular song.

Well, there are people stupid enough to do this, I guess.

Yancey Ward said...

He was lucky that someone untrapped his car for him. The decision he made, to stay with the car probably did save him, and perhaps he would have survived anyway. Did he check to the outside of the vehicle to see if running on foot was a real alternative? I would done that at the very least before remaining inside. I think one could probably tell if escape on foot was even possible in that situation- sounds like to me that it wasn't in his case.

ceowens said...

"Spirit In The Sky" - Norman Greenbaum

Henry said...

I wonder if Mr. Pierce thought to ram the burning car with his own car. If he disabled his own car he might have died. But would he have had a chance to drive dangerously and live? I guess life is not the movies, yet.

Henry said...

Also by Peter Gabriel: I Go Swimming

Crimso said...

"Drove the night toward my home
The place that I was born, on the lakeside
As daylight broke, I saw the earth
The trees had burned down to the ground"

Also Gabriel, same LP.

Char Char Binks said...

Burn, Baby Burn
Wildfire
Burning Love
Burning Down the House
Fire and Rain

The Drill SGT said...

"Henry said...
I wonder if Mr. Pierce thought to ram the burning car with his own car"

or going around the car on foot and heading up the road?

Freeman Hunt said...

Pin a medal on the bulldozer operator.

Freeman Hunt said...

Playing a song would not make me feel more calm. About to burn to death is a get right with God moment.

Jim at said...

I'm genuinely interested in what song you would play in your car if you believed you were trapped and would within 20 minutes die in melting plastic.

46&2

The Drill SGT said...

Ann,

there is more to this guy's story

https://twitchy.com/gregp-3534/2018/11/13/meet-the-badass-nurse-who-drove-his-toyota-pickup-truck-back-into-paradise-to-rescue-patients/?utm_campaign=twitchywidget

Henry said...

@The Drill SGT -- That's an amazing story. Hats off to Mr. Pierce!

JaimeRoberto said...

Who by Fire by Leonard Cohen.

And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
Who in your merry merry month of may,
Who by very slow decay,
And who shall I say is calling?
And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate,
Who in these realms of love, who by something blunt,
And who by avalanche, who by powder,
Who for his greed, who for his hunger,
And who shall I say is calling?
And who by brave assent, who by accident,
Who in solitude, who in this mirror,
Who by his lady's command, who by his own hand,
Who in mortal chains, who in power,
And who shall I say is calling?


Several years ago this song played on my iPod, and about 10 minutes later my wife called me to tell me that her father had just died. Eerie.

PresbyPoet said...

Drill Sargent,
You do know that just offshore of the Oregon coast is the Cascadia Earthquake fault, which 318 years ago snapped with a 9.0 subduction earthquake. Picture the Japanese Tsunami headed toward your home. Make sure you know how to get to high ground.

320Busdriver said...

What if you're 4 years old and your mom gets pulled over at midnight and she is arrested for DUI? You are in the back seat and left there when the car gets towed.

And its in the upper teens and you don't get discovered until 8 in the morning. Thats also being trapped. Right?

Some great parenting goin on, amongst other ineptitude in urban Milwaukee.

https://www.tmj4.com/news/local-news/four-year-old-girl-left-in-vehicle-overnight-in-city-tow-lot

Earnest Prole said...

You do know that just offshore of the Oregon coast is the Cascadia Earthquake fault

From someone who grew up on the Oregon coast and still has family there: watch some Japanese tsunami videos and do the worst-case scenario math.

Earnest Prole said...

Satisfaction
Came in a chain reaction
I couldn't get enough
So I had to self-destruct
The heat was on
Rising to the top
Everybody going strong
That is when my spark got hot
I heard somebody say
Burn baby burn
Disco inferno
Burn baby burn
Burn that mother down

Bunkypotatohead said...

The time to hesitate is through
No time to wallow in the mire
Try now we can only lose
And our love become a funeral pyre

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