When Michele Fauquier's apartment manager banged on her door early Saturday to warn her about the approaching Sylmar fire, all the hospice nurse could think about were her patients across the way in the Oakridge Mobile Home Park.
Without stopping to save her own belongings, Fauquier jumped into her car and drove to the home of a 57-year-old woman with multiple sclerosis. The woman's 80-year-old mother couldn't move her, so, Fauquier said, she helped them into their car and watched them drive away.
She then started looking for another patient, a woman in her 80s with dementia. Fauquier knew that the patient lived with her husband and a roommate. She also knew that all three were hard of hearing and had slept through the last evacuation order, when the Sesnon fire burned through the area in October.
But with flames racing down the hill toward them, police officers wanted Fauquier to leave the park immediately. She refused.
"I was telling them, 'No, I'm not leaving the park, I'm going over there,' and they were telling me no, that street had been cleared already," Fauquier said.
The officers finally agreed to escort her to her patient's home. Fauquier pounded on the door repeatedly before the three confused residents appeared in their pajamas. She glanced at one of the officers, she said, and the officer mouthed, "Oh, my God."
The electricity went out as they grabbed for belongings. Fauquier still can't quite believe that they managed to get all three residents and their pet bird into their car in time to escape.
"It went from the power being shut off to the house being lit up by the flames coming down the hill. I'll never forget it," she said.
When Fauquier returned to her own apartment, she found it damaged by fire. But she has had little time to worry about that. While her employers at the Roze Room Hospice of the Valley are proudly telling her story, she is busy caring for her patients.
The families she helped evacuate are safe and staying with relatives, Fauquier said, but their homes were destroyed. "I was over there today," she said sadly. "It's like a war zone."