93-Year-Old Woman Rescued, Pulled Into Garbage Collector’s Truck as Camp Fire Spread

Watch: Drivers get dangerously close to Camp Fire inferno
November 18, 2018 Updated: November 18, 2018

A garbage collector is credited with saving the life of a 93-year-old woman amid Northern California’s devastating Camp Fire that has been blamed for the deaths of dozens of people.

A mandatory evacuation order was issued for parts of Butte County, where the Camp Fire was spreading, more than a week ago. Dane Cummings, the garbage collector, went to check on elderly residents in Magalia, and he spotted nonagenarian Margaret Newsum on her front lawn.


“I decided that we were gonna get her out of there,” Cummings told the “Today” show on Nov. 13. “I don’t know that much about fires, but I knew if that fire came over that hill they were in trouble.”

Cummings said he knew she had a caretaker staying with her, but she told him the caretaker was gone.

Newsum, who broke her back nearly a year ago, was able to get to the front lawn. She wanted help evacuating the area.

“I am positive, and I knew I was going to get out of there,” Newsum told the show. “I didn’t know how, and here I got an angel driving this great big, green monster.”

Magalia is a suburb of Paradise, California, which was mostly destroyed during the Camp Fire.

There was only one route away from town amid evacuations. It took Cummings five hours to evacuate Newsum.

“I went out and was standing on the front porch when this great, big, green monster drove up, and my dear friend was emptying the garbage, and I have had him as my worker. I call him my private worker because he’s so great … and he said, ‘You’re not staying here. You’ve got to get out of here. Why are you still here?'” she said of the truck, KCCI reported on Nov. 14.

“They lifted her, and we scooted her on the seat and put the seat belt on her and made sure she was up there far enough so she wouldn’t fall out either side, and that was it. We were on the road,” said Cummings of the rescue.

He was told about the fast-moving Camp Fire by a supervisor who told him to go home.

“I been on that route eight years, and I just picked the people that I knew were older, and I tried to stop and help them and let them know that they were coming and make sure they were getting out,” he told KCCI. “She was my last stop. I probably went to 45 or 50 people to see if I could help them.”

Atkinson searches for human remains with her cadaver dog in a van destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise
Karen Atkinson, of Marin, searches for human remains with her cadaver dog, Echo, in a van destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif., on Nov. 14, 2018. (Terray Sylvester/Reuters)

1,300 Unaccounted For

Officials in California say nearly 1,300 people are now unaccounted in Northern Calfornia due to the fire, CBS News reported, adding that 76 people have been confirmed dead.

The fire was 55 percent contained as of Nov. 17 after burning nearly 150,000 acres.

President Donald Trump visited homes destroyed by the Camp Fire before touring devastated areas in Malibu, California, where the Woolsey Fire torched the area.

“It’s a disheartening situation,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said of the situation. “As much as I wish we could get through this before the rains come, I don’t know if that’s possible.”