The LA Times has this extraordinary story from Sonoma County, Northern California, where devastating wildfires have torn through wine country, killing 31 people and leaving more than 3,500 homes and businesses destroyed.

Santa Rosa residents Jan and John Pascoe found themselves trapped by the fire, which spread so fast that they were unable to evacuate just 20 minutes after receiving a call from their daughter telling them to get out.

Desperate in the face of an encroaching wall of flame, the Pascoes went to their neighbour’s pool.

The pair held off as long as they could, but when their neighbour’s house and the trees and wooden detailing around the pool began to burn, they got into the cold and filthy water.

It was around 1am, and they stayed in the pool, submerged and surfacing to breathe through the protection of wet t-shirts, for six hours, waiting for the fire to pass.

Jan told the LA Times,

I just kept going under. And I kept saying, ‘How long does it take for a house to burn down?’ We were freezing.

The heat around the pool was so intense that it melted Jan’s phone, which she’d left in one of her shoes at the edge.

The Pascoes’ house, and their neighbour’s, burned to the ground, but they survived, thanks to their choice to stay in a very cold pool all night. According to the LA Times, it was only 12C when they emerged. The couple are now staying with their daughter in San Francisco, and attempting to come to terms with the loss of more than 35 years worth of possessions.

The wine country fires have forced at least 20,000 people to evacuate northern California since Sunday, and extremely dry conditions paired with high winds mean that the deadly blazes continue to burn.

Source: LA Times
Image: Twitter / @nycjim