A 14-year-old boy drove through flames to get his family to safety as wildfires continue to rage across California.
Ruben Navarrete was forced to learn how to drive in two days as the fires grew ever closer to his home on the Cold Springs Rancheria of Mono Indians, a Native American reservation in Fresno County.
The Creek Fire, which has been burning in the Sierra National Forest since last Friday, has razed 176,000 acres, according to fire officials.
Ruben – who lives with his aunt, uncle, three younger cousins and his disabled brother – was taught to drive as a safety precaution as the family prepared for a last-minute evacuation.
Image: Ruben and his family are staying in a hotel provided by the Red Cross
On Monday, they were forced to leave the reservation and Ruben had to take the wheel to help evacuate the family-of-seven.
His aunt Jamie drove the family’s Kia SUV, while Ruben drove his brother in a Chevrolet and his Uncle Josh drove the family pickup truck.
Ruben said driving while surrounded by flames was “like a video game”.
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“When it came down to when I had to drive, I was really nervous, scared,” he told AFP.
It wasn’t until he had been driving for 20 miles that he felt relaxed.
The family are now temporarily staying in a hotel in Clovis thanks to the help of the Red Cross.
More than 1,200 rooms have been prepared for fire evacuees at hotels, a Red Cross official told AFP.
Ruben’s family have no idea if their home was damaged by the flames, or the fate of the two dogs they had to leave behind.
His aunt Jamie Smith said: “It was a crash course because all he had ever driven was about a quarter mile from our home.
“It was really nerve-racking for all of us.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in five Californian counties – Fresno, Madera, Mariposa, San Bernardino and San Diego.
At least 10 people in California are known to have died and around 16 people are missing.
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This year’s wildfire season has been recognised as the largest in California’s history after the first significant fires began as early as 3 May.
According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), wildfire season now lasts 75 days longer than in the past.
Climate change has been blamed.
Fires are also blazing in Oregon and Washington thanks to hot dry winds. More than half a million have been forced to evacuate.
Source : Sky News