Nichole Jolly just confirmed what she feared: her childhood home, where three generations made memories, was now reduced to rubble.
“This is where I came back when I was born,” she said through tears. “This is where my babies came back when they were born.”
Jolly and her husband, Nick, had come to terms thinking the cat that lived with her mom probably didn’t make it. Jolly said her mom was given such little notice to evacuate, so she left with only the clothes on her back.
But as if on cue, a head popped up from the rubble.
“Oh my god, Nick!” Jolly cried out. “That’s our cat! Oh my god.”
After a few minutes, they coaxed her out of the rubble. Jolly whispered an apology to little Kit Kat, nestled in her arms. The cat was now much thinner than the last time they saw her and her paws were singed.
“I can’t believe she made this! She is a strong kitty. We have a strong family,” Jolly said.
“I had to walk through fire too,” she said in Kit Kat’s ear.
Jolly did, in fact, walk through fire. In fact, she barely escaped.
It was last Thursday when the rapidly-moving fire was spreading through the town of Paradise—now 90 percent destroyed--where Jolly works as a nurse. She helped evacuate the surgical unit patients, putting them in any cars they could find, as gently as possible.
And for that, she’s been dubbed a hero. However, Jolly thinks that saving her own life soon after was the real miracle.
Jolly was in her car trying to escape, when the inferno suddenly surrounded her and many others on the same road.
“I don’t even know where I am, it’s on fire,” Jolly said in a video she took from her car. “And we’re stuck in the middle of it. These trees could come down at any moment.”
Cars were lined up and going nowhere.
“I thought I was gonna be able to get out this way, but I’m stuck here, too,” she can be heard saying through tears in that same video.
“We were screaming and running into each other with our cars. They pushed me off the road.”
On Tuesday evening, she returned to that very spot for the first time since she almost lost her life.
“I was all by myself. I was totally alone, and I called Nick and I said, ‘Honey, there’s flames all around me, and I’m gonna die. There’s no way I can make it out of this.’”
Her husband had even begun to think about how he would tell their children their mom wasn’t coming home.
“She was hysterical,” her husband Nick said, recalling their phone call. “And I couldn’t do anything to help her.”
He suggested she get out and run. So, she did. Her shoes began to melt, and her clothes caught fire.
“And I just had my arms out and I’m running, and I touched a firetruck.”
She got inside it, but traffic was still at a standstill. Even the firefighters thought their chances for survival were grim.
“I was sitting in the fire truck right here and just thinking, ‘OK, this is going to be a really painful death.’”
But a bulldozer suddenly appeared, pushing the melting vehicles off the road.
They made it out. But she hasn’t stopped reliving it.
“I’ll never forget my screaming in the car, when the fire was just coming up on the side of it, and I was yelling for my husband ‘Oh my God, oh my God.’ I’ll never forget that. That’s what I wake up to every night.”
But she takes comfort in knowing they, unlike some, still have each other.
And they have Kit Kat. Tuesday evening, they brought her to her mom while she was at work to surprise her.
“We found your freaking cat, mom,” Nichole shouted.
Stunned, her mother could hardly find words.
“Oh my god, you guys. I can’t believe this…. I thought she was gone!”
Still alive. But now with eight lives left to spare.