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Feather River Nurse remembers the Camp Fire

Nurse Nichole Jolly shares her story of escape, survival, and recovery

Posted: Nov 5, 2019 6:51 PM

MAGALIA, Calif. - November 8th remains a day that will never be forgotten, defined by harrowing tales of escape, bravery and resilience.

"My husband had to tell my kids, 'your mom might not make it home. It was just awful."

Nichole Jolly is a survivor.

"I just kept looking at the fire, and it was coming at the trees, right at me, and I just thought, I don't want to die like this."

But Jolly is, at her core, a healer, working as a nurse at Feather River Hospital since 2015. It was a text message from her husband that fateful morning, and not an emergency alert, that told her the flames were coming.

"Within fifteen minutes it all changed. Police and firefighters were on our back door. It was just sheer panic at that point. Get them out of here, grab what you can, just grab your patients," recalled Jolly. 

Jolly and another nurse were among the last to leave. Not a single patient or staff member lost their lives that day. 

"We ended up evacuating down Pentz road then down Pearson. That was the fatal mistake we made. The fire just came through and just came over the top of our cars, and started burning our cars with us in them...It was weird. I've never had reception on this road. I was able to call my husband. He said, 'honey, you're going to have to run.'"

So she did. Somehow, through all the smoke and flame, clothing on fire, Jolly found a fire engine, stuck in traffic. Firefighters pulled her inside.

"Then out of nowhere. We hear a dozer, coming in behind us. We're just stuck in traffic, you can't move anywhere, everyone's vehicle is there in front of us. It's just blocking the roads. And turns out his name is Joe Kennedy. He cleared a path for us so we could get behind him and head back to the hospital."

A month after the disaster, she and her family reunited with the firefighters who saved her life.

"That guy's a miracle, he's everything."

Jolly lives a peaceful life now, spending much of it with her family and prize-winning horses. And while the wounds of trauma run deep, this nurse shares words she hopes will help her community heal:

"Everybody lost something in this fire. It's going to be ok. We're going to rebuild. And I want people to be there for each other. Because that's what made this town so great. We are such a great town. It's not the things we lost, it's who we are. We are a great town because of the people that we are."

Jolly is now working to rebuild her home in Paradise. 

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 546814

Reported Deaths: 10133
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2042584919
Riverside40452799
Orange38754704
San Bernardino34939497
San Diego31127583
Kern22009160
Fresno16625157
Alameda12884206
San Joaquin12119192
Santa Clara11336196
Sacramento10544155
Tulare10475196
Imperial9601240
Stanislaus9408151
Contra Costa8760136
Ventura803582
San Francisco732664
Santa Barbara665268
San Mateo5978120
Marin525778
Monterey515635
Merced485562
Kings445356
Solano395939
Sonoma335844
Madera226736
Placer209920
San Luis Obispo204716
Yolo166042
Santa Cruz12294
Butte10608
Napa104610
Sutter8936
El Dorado7161
San Benito6994
Lassen6380
Yuba5724
Shasta4119
Mendocino36310
Colusa3624
Glenn3603
Nevada3211
Humboldt2804
Tehama2711
Lake2202
Amador1620
Mono1531
Tuolumne1472
Calaveras1361
Del Norte960
Siskiyou920
Inyo863
Mariposa602
Plumas340
Trinity50
Modoc40
Sierra30
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Chico
Few Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 100° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 90°
Oroville
Clear
93° wxIcon
Hi: 100° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 93°
Paradise
Few Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 90°
Chester
Clear
87° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 87°
Red Bluff
Clear
99° wxIcon
Hi: 102° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 99°
Willows
Few Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 103° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 90°
After a couple days of comfortably cooler than average weather around northern California, highs rose rapidly to more seasonable levels this afternoon. The warming trend will continue through the weekend, too.
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