Sunday School Teacher Survived Paradise Fire behind Rock


By Mark Ellis —

Suzie Ernest (screengrab ABC10)

A Sunday school teacher, her husband, and a neighbor were shielded from a firestorm that engulfed Paradise, California, by hiding behind a boulder.

Suzie Ernest and husband Paul tried to escape the Camp fire on a four-wheeler, along with their neighbor, Travis Wright, as flames overwhelmed their home. Seeing their path blocked, they sought refuge in a nearby field behind a boulder as the fire exploded around them.

“They were on fire,” son Jesse told an ABC affiliate. “My mom’s shoes burned off. My dad’s leather shoes burned. Cooked. Their pants were burned off from knees down.”

Paul Wright

Paul tried to shield Suzie with his body, but the couple still suffered significant, third-degree burns.

“I could hear Paul and Suzie screaming and I knew it was getting them pretty bad,” Travis Wright told ABC. “It was a terrible, terrible sound.”

Travis Wright (screengrab ABC10)

The couple was rescued when Wright was able to flag down firefighters.

“Those guys are heroes,” Wright said. “They hopped on my quad and went right into the flames.”

The first responders brought the Ernests to a helipad and airlifted them to the Burn Center at UC Davis, where they remain in fair condition. It may be two months before they are able to leave the hospital.

scorched igloo

The couple hopes to rebuild someday. The only belongings they have left are an igloo ice chest they brought with them when they evacuated and two tomatoes from their garden they placed inside. Their son said they will use the seeds from the tomatoes to plant a new garden.

two tomatoes that survived

“To go through this experience, and how traumatic and how their lives are going to change because of it. Their appearance is going to change because of it,” Wright told ABC. “It’s pretty amazing. They’re strong. They’re really strong.”

Over 60 lost their lives in the fire, with over 600 still missing, yet these three survived, shielded by a rock.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. (The 9/11 Psalm…Psalm 91:1)


A Go Fund Me page for the Ernests has been set up here

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