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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: 879645

Reported Deaths: 16982
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2893666877
Riverside640751272
San Bernardino597791021
Orange570711410
San Diego52735853
Kern33448410
Fresno30051429
Sacramento24425468
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San Joaquin21187484
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Imperial12475335
San Francisco11901133
Monterey1109183
San Mateo10810157
Santa Barbara9608119
Merced9314152
Sonoma8934129
Kings815983
Solano711774
Marin7019124
Madera488673
San Luis Obispo400932
Placer397852
Yolo307356
Butte301950
Santa Cruz270623
Napa188214
Sutter179612
Shasta172329
San Benito140314
El Dorado12834
Yuba125310
Mendocino110321
Tehama7748
Lassen7571
Lake67015
Glenn6393
Nevada5828
Humboldt5549
Colusa5456
Calaveras33317
Amador31316
Tuolumne2494
Inyo21515
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Mono1752
Del Norte1731
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Plumas540
Modoc270
Trinity230
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Alpine30
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Chico
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Gusty winds, hot temperatures, and dry conditions are prompting a Red Flag Warning for high fire danger today. Gusty winds will keep fire danger high through the end of the week, but a welcome cooling trend is on the way in your extended forecast.
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