‘Lucky to be alive:’ Man escapes fire, returns to find tree on house | TheUnion.com

‘Lucky to be alive:’ Man escapes fire, returns to find tree on house

"It takes guts to drive through a wall of flame, especially because you don't know what's on the other side of it," Rough and Ready's Dave Mauldin said. "But you can't stay on this side, because you'd die. It's a split-second decision."

Mauldin made this decision twice as he escaped the flames of the Lobo Fire in the early morning hours of Monday, Oct. 9.

"I'm lucky to be alive, quite frankly," he said.

It all began at 3:30 a.m. when the wind knocked a large limb of an oak tree onto Mauldin's home.

Not long after, Mauldin received a phone call from his daughter who got word of encroaching flames from another neighbor.

"She called my daughter and said, 'My house is on fire as I'm making this call. I'm out the door but I wanted you to call your dad and let him know.'"

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In a minute, Mauldin was out the door with his pet bird in one hand and an emergency radio scanner in the other.

As Mauldin approached the intersection of Digger Hill Way and Prospector Road, he could see a wall of flame shooting across both sides of the road, which he successfully drove through.

Smoke from the second wall of flame caused Mauldin to drive his vehicle into a ditch on the side of the road, where he suffered a blown tire.

"I was nervous because I was trying to drive out of the ditch and the fire was right behind me," Mauldin said.

Eventually, Mauldin made it down the road riding only on the rim from the blown tire, pulling over only after getting to safety.

"I wanted to get as far away from the fire, and called 911 for help because I'm in an abandoned vehicle with a blown tire," Mauldin said. "It was harrowing at times."

Back at his property, firefighters and Mauldin's friend Craig Hufnagel made a stand to help save his home.

"He deserves a gold medal around his neck," Mauldin said of Hufnagel. "He was here at six in the morning helping firefighters to rake out spot fires. He melted a rake or two. That takes guts when you're not wearing turnouts."

But after the smoke cleared and the flames died down, Mauldin still faced the problem of the large tree limb resting on his home.

Enter TC Tree Service and Auburn Crane.

TC, which specializes in removal of hazardous trees and limbs, had already volunteered its time in removing limbs on two other properties before Mauldin contacted them.

"We saw a lot of people on Facebook saying stuff was burned," TC Tree Service co-owner Dustin Tribby said. "We decided to offer up our services for free to make sure that no trees were falling on people's houses."

"It was crazy on his end," TC tree climber David Sherbundy said of Mauldin's experience. "He escaped death three times in a row. I was so glad to see a happy smile on his face. It makes you feel good when you go home at the end of the day."

"Both of these companies are angels," Mauldin said of TC Tree Service and Auburn Crane, which both waived their fees for the removal of the downed limbs.

"Most of my neighbors on my street lost their homes, most of them lost everything and I am so sad for them. It makes you want to cry," Mauldin said. "I am feeling fortunate and blessed and thankful."

To contact Multimedia Reporter Elias Funez, email efunez@theunion.com or call 530-477- 4230.

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