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Family that escaped deadly California Camp Fire relocates to Southwest Florida

By Staff | Dec 19, 2018

A Paradise, California, mother and her two children, who recently escaped the northern California Camp Fire, have relocated for the time being to Southwest Florida. Ceara Adlam and her two children arrived at Southwest Florida International Airport last Sunday night where they were picked up by her father, Steve Petersen, a resident of Pine Island.

Adlam this week related the family’s harrowing experience and what brought them to Southwest Florida.

“The fire actually started early Thursday morning, Nov. 8, in Pulga, California,” Adlam said. “That’s not too far away from Paradise and the winds up on the ridge are crazy so the fires move quickly.”

First responders responded to a “brush fire” call on Camp Creek Road in Butte County under power lines. They also reported wind speeds at 50 mph, which allowed the fire to grow rapidly.

Adlam’s mother lives in a town closer to where the fire started and Adlam read on Facebook that officials were ordering some evacuations.

“So I called my mother at her work and suggested she check her house,” Adlam said. “When my mother got to her house is when everything started going crazy. My husband, who was working, went to help my mother evacuate.”

Adlam’s two children were at school for the day.

“That’s when I received a text from the school ‘Come pick up your children the school is being evacuated.'”

Adlam drove immediately to the school only to learn the children were not at the school but still at daycare.

“When I picked them up at daycare, ash was falling but I wasn’t too worried yet,” Adlam said. “We got safely home and we still weren’t asked to evacuate and I wasn’t too worried. Then my husband came speeding into the driveway in his work truck with lights flashing.”

Sanjay Adlam works for the water company in Paradise.

“I told my boys, ‘take what’s most important to you,'” Adlam said. “My 6-year-old grabbed his stuffed animal huskies and my 8-year-old grabbed his Golden State Warriors jersey and his crystals.”

The family headed for Chico, normally a 20-minute drive.

“We ran into complete gridlock and it took us 5 hours to get to my step-brother’s house. It was pitch black and all you could see was an orange glow with embers and ash falling.”

“I received a voicemail message from my daughter about an hour after the fire started,” Petersen said. “All she said was ‘we’re running… I’ll let you know.’ We were unable to communicate for several hours and I was very worried. Finally we got through and I knew everyone was O.K.”

The mother and two children made it to Chico where the family stayed in a small two-bedroom apartment with her stepbrother. Two weeks later, the three flew out of Sacramento and landed at Southwest Florida International where they were greeted by Petersen.

“Obviously it was very emotional,” Petersen said. “But my daughter Ceara and two grandsons, JJ and Khenan, are all safe and that’s what matters.”

The family has rented a house in Cape Coral and the children are enrolled in school. Her husband remained in California to continue working for the water company.

“I didn’t want the boys to miss too much school,” Adlam said. “I’m lucky to be living near my sister in Cape Coral and my father in Pine Island.

“Paradise was a beautiful old-fashioned town and we don’t know what we will be going back to,” Adlam said. “I know our house is gone and at least part of my children’s school is gone.”

The Camp Fire has now become the deadliest wildfire in California’s history. The fire covered 153,336 acres with 86 reported dead.

Paradise’s population before the fire was 150,000.