When Natasha saw the fires fast approaching, she knew what she had to do.
Natasha Wallace, a college student in Santa Rosa, was amongst the many people who were devastated by the recent California wildfires. She had been on campus studying when the fire initially broke out. She was driving home around 1 a.m. and saw the massive wall of flame approaching and, for a moment, pulled over to take a look. It wasn’t until she stopped that Wallace understood the severity and speed of the fire and realized – her life was in danger – she needed to get out of town while she still had the chance.
“It was like a flamethrower,” Wallace told The Dodo. “I knew how fast the fire was going. It was really scary.”
Wallace got back in her car and continued to her home, where she quickly packed a few bags. She rounded up her dog, Bentley, into the car and they began to drive away. It wasn’t long before Wallace was brought to a halt in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
“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,’” Wallace recalled. “So, I turned around and went back to the house.”
She decided that if she was going to make it out of there, her chances were better by bicycle. So she ditched all of her possessions to make room for the most important cargo of all: “I knew the only thing that mattered was my dog. That was it,” Wallace said.
“I emptied out a duffel bag that had clothes and some of my belongings,” she said. “I told Bentley to sit inside, and he just hopped right in. It’s like he understood the situation. He knew something was wrong.”
Wallace took the 70-pound bag of doggo, hung it from her neck and pedaled for their lives.
“It was hard. I was trying to avoid the branches and everything on the road. The first 2 miles were OK. I was going off pure adrenaline, or supermom strength,” she said. “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.”
Luckily for Wallace and Bentley, a person in a truck spotted them and offered them a ride the rest of the way out. They escaped. They were safe. But unfortunately, like many others, Wallace lost her home and virtually everything she owned.
The last few days and surely many days ahead will be tiring, but at least Bentley will be helping Wallace through.
“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.”
Wallace and Bentley are now living with relatives until she’s able to move forward. It’s hard to process all that was lost in the fires, but Wallace knows she chose the most important thing.