It was 1 AM in the morning when Natasha Wallace realized that she only had minutes to escape the wildfire headed her way. At first, she gathered her most prized possessions and then ditched them all to pack her bag with the one thing that mattered most to her.
Wallace is a college student in Santa Rosa. She was on campus when the fire broke out. “It was like a flamethrower,” Wallace recalled. “I knew how fast the fire was going. It was really scary.”
At first, Wallace packed several belongings and then got in the car with her dog Bentley to drive away. But the traffic was so bad with everyone trying to get out. That’s when she thought up a new plan. “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 said. “So, I turned around and went back to the house.”
She packed her dog in her pack and took off on her bike
This time she left her material possessions and took only Bentley and her bicycle. “I knew the only thing that mattered was my dog. That was it,” Wallace said. She packed Bentley inside her bag. Bentley is no small dog, weighing in at 70 pounds but none-the-less he fit right in.
“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.” She strapped Bentley around her neck and off they went.
“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 explained. “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.”
The two made it out alive. Everything was lost, but they had each other. “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 staying with relatives since all her belongings were lost. Wallace is so thankful that the most important thing was saved. “You can pack hundreds of dollars worth of material things, but my dog is priceless,” she said.