With only minutes to escape a devastating wildfire in California, Natasha Wallace grabbed the most important thing to her: a 70-pound dog named Bentley.
Wallace, a college student, had been on campus when the fire broke out. Shortly after 1 a.m., she neared her home and saw a wall of fire blazing across the freeway. After stopping to glimpse the phenomena for a second, she realized she needed to get out of the element’s way before it was too late. Wallace told The Dodo: “It was like a flamethrower. I knew how fast the fire was going. It was really scary.”
As soon as she reached her house, Wallace hurriedly packed a few bags. With Bentley and her things in the car, she then took off. Due to horrendous traffic, however, they were trapped in the neighborhood. That’s when she decided to do something drastic.
“I sat in my car for about two minutes, and I could see the fire getting closer. I said, ‘I’m not burning in my car,’” said Wallace. “So, I turned around and went back to the house.”
She traded her car for a bicycle and ditched almost all of her possessions to make room for Bentley in her duffel bag. “I knew the only thing that mattered was my dog. That was it,” Wallace recalled.
“I emptied out a duffel bag that had clothes and some of my belongings,” she added. “I told Bentley to sit inside, and he just hopped right in. It’s like he understood the situation. He knew something was wrong.”
With the bag hung around her neck, Wallace began pedaling. She admits that it was hard.
“I was trying to avoid the branches and everything on the road,” said Wallace. “The first 2 miles were OK. I was going off pure adrenaline, or supermom strength. Bentley just sat there the whole time, like a super good boy. His well-being was the only thing I cared about at that point.”
Before long, a compassionate stranger saw the duo and offered to give them a ride. Though they were safe, Wallace lost her home and basically everything she owns. At least she has Bentley, however.
“He’s been wonderful to cope with,” Wallace said. “When I was at the shelter, all I had was my dog. I literally just hugged my dog this whole time.”
With their home destroyed, the duo is now staying Wallace’s relatives. It has been difficult, to say the least, but the college student knows the most important thing was saved. “You can pack hundreds of dollars worth of material things, but my dog is priceless,” she said.
h/t The Dodo