SACRAMENTO (CBS/CBS SF) — When Bill Blevins falls off to sleep in the UC Davis Medical Center Burn Center, the Camp Fire nightmares return.
Blevins suffered severe burns to his hands and body in the Camp Fire as he attempted to escape the deadly flames. He feels fortunate that he is not among the 85 confirmed victims or the 249 who remain missing.
But the fire — which was 98 percent contained by Saturday night — and the terror are haunting his dreams.
“The dreams that I’ve had since I’ve been here, my God, I’ve burnt so many times in a fire,” he told CBS News.
Blevins was visiting a friend in Paradise when the Camp Fire broke out on Nov. 8. The flames ripped through the town covering a football field every minute. The firestorm overwhelmed residents in their homes and cars as they attempted to flee.
For Blevins, the escape route with his friend was through the wall of fire.
“My car was actually on fire,” he said. “Run back to the house is the only thing we could think. Try to get back to the house and save the house and keep it from catching fire. If we can keep the house from catching fire we might have a chance of surviving.”
But his sprint back to the house was among the scariest moments of his life.
“The flames burnt my face and my hands,” he said. “The flames coming across the road were like a blowtorch.”
Once back to the house, he and his friend began battling the fiery onslaught with a garden hose.
“I was watching all of the homes around us just burn to the ground,” he told CBS News. “Then all of a sudden it set in that I’m burnt bad. The skin is melting off my hands.”
Blevins said he took a few moments to call his family and say goodbye.
“I called my wife and I told her we’re stranded, we’re stuck in the middle of this fire,” Blevins recalled. “We have no way out and I don’t know if I’m ever going to see you again. I love you and I don’t know if this is going to be my last day or not.”
Blevins and his friend were able to fight back the flames long enough to be rescued by firefighters.
UC Davis physician Dr. Tina Palmiera said Blevins is lucky to have survived. He has burns over 12 percent of his body and faces a year of rehab and skin graft surgeries.
“He was very lucky, not everybody is as lucky to be able to escape the flames and have the where-with-all to do what he did to get out,” she said.
And despite his long road to recovery, Blevins agrees with his doctor.
“I think that we’re very lucky to be alive today because there are a lot of people that didn’t make it out,” he said. “They perished in their homes or they perished in their cars trying to get out of there.”