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From Their Home, They Saw A Wall Of Flames And Knew They Had To Go

EMILY COCKS: We were asleep, and my husband woke up. And I looked at my phone. It was 12:42. And I stood up and looked out the window, and the entire ridge across from our house was on fire.


That's Emily Cocks. She lives in Napa, where the Atlas fire has been burning for days. It has burnt through vineyards and neighborhoods including hers. She says she fled her house early Monday morning.

COCKS: We can see Atlas Peak Road, which is a mountain road that goes up Atlas Peak. And you could see cars, like, going - driving through the flames, kind of getting down. And it was just - the entire ridge - I mean, like, 3 miles, it's just all fire. So we went outside and looked, and it - my throat hurt immediately. And my eyes were watering, and ash was falling.

I called my friend who's actually a fireman himself, and he lives a few miles away. And he said that the sheriff or somebody had come through and told all the residents in his little kind of rural home community take to get out. We hadn't had anybody come to us.

MCEVERS: So you had to make the decision on your own. You had - you - it was up to you to decide, like, whether or not to leave.

COCKS: Yeah. And we have two cats, no children. So put the cats in carriers. I - you know, I was kind of panicked, and I didn't really know what to grab. And I kind of, like, stood in my closet. And I'm like, well, I don't even know what to grab. And I grabbed a couple of shorts and a pair of pants and, you know, a few things of food. And we didn't know if we were going to a campground, you know? And so we had put our tent in the car. And we jumped in the cars, and that was it. We just left heading east and ended up in Suisun City at a Hampton Inn.

MCEVERS: So you had - you - I mean, you had a couple pairs of shorts, a pair of pants, a little bit of food and a tent and your two cars and your two cats.

COCKS: Yep. That was it. I mean, I ended up grabbing - and you know, I grabbed my passport, and I grabbed some of my grandma's heirloom jewelry. And it just, like, hit me. I was like, grab that stuff. And two pictures of my parents and our wedding album - I grabbed that. And everything else is gone.

MCEVERS: What happened to your house?

COCKS: You know, I've been talking to my parents. And my mom called, and she's like, I think your father found a picture of your house on the Internet. And I was like, oh, tell me the website. And she's like, just be prepared. And I pulled up the website when I was on the - my dad called, and I was on the phone with him. He's like, here's the website. And I pulled it up, and it was our home engulfed in flames. And that's how we found out that it was gone. It's surreal.

MCEVERS: So now you're saying with your parents a few hours away. And I know it's really early and, you know, maybe you don't know the answer to this question, but what's your plan?

COCKS: I mean, the smoke is terrible. I mean, we can't go back right now. And I don't even know when we can. I mean, you know, these fires - like, when you see the big wildfires rage outside Yosemite or whatever, they take weeks to put out. And it's zero percent contained. So I'm like, it's going to be weeks. I mean, at first we thought maybe 72 hours.


COCKS: I don't know. It's just a wait and see, which is hard because it's the uncertainty. But a lot of people are facing that. So...


COCKS: ...We'll figure it out.

MCEVERS: Emily Cocks, thank you for telling us your story. And good luck.

COCKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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