Man who survived California fire says cat saved his life

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A longtime resident of Paradise, who wanted to stay anonymous, told us as flames engulfed the homes around his and he couldn't, he wouldn't leave his cat Zara behind. (KGO-TV)

A longtime resident of Paradise, an older man, who lives alone and didn't want his identity revealed, said as flames engulfed the homes around his, he couldn't -- he wouldn't -- leave his cat Zara behind.

"I heard all the neighbors screaming and all the rushing about. I was going to pack up and leave but the cat was in the house hiding, scared," he said. "I tried three times to try to find her and get out, but they told me if I had tried to walk out I would've been dead."

The man told sister station KGO he mostly just sat on his front porch and watched the inferno around him.

"The fences fed the fire and then the wind came and took it up into the eaves. The fences took every single house here down," he recalled. "I didn't even get smoke hardly. I sat on the front porch."

As it turned out, in Paradise we now know that many who did try to leave -- and some who stayed -- did not make it.

RELATED: California Wildfires: Updates, maps, coverage of LA, Bay Area fires

Search teams -- including a police chaplain -- spent the day looking for missing people, with little more than a list of names and addresses to go on.

At the same, fire crews from as far away as the Bay Area, including Albany and Alameda County, have arrived in Paradise and surrounding communities to help put out hot spots.

Even when the Camp Fire is completely out, the resident who wouldn't leave told us he knows his community will never be the same.

His local Safeway, an entire shopping center, has been reduced to rubble and he expects many of his neighbors will never come back.

"Everything was just amazing," he said. "I never cared that much for the house, but now I feel like I owe it.

RELATED: Camp Fire is deadliest wildfire in California history

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