Margaret Newsum is thanking her garbage collector, Dane Ray Cummings, for rescuing her from her Magalia, California, as a deadly fire ravages the county

By Char Adams
November 12, 2018 02:09 PM

A 93-year-old woman in Magalia, California, is thanking her longtime sanitation worker for rescuing her from her home as a deadly wildfire continues to ravage the county.

With her caregiver gone for the day, Margaret Newsum feared for her life after hearing about the Camp Fire terrorizing Paradise, a small town just minutes from Magalia, according to KCRA. That’s when Dane Ray Cumming, a waste management driver, arrived.

“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,” Newsum recalled to the station. “He said, ‘You’re not staying here. You’ve got to get out of here. Why are you still here?’ ”

Camp Fire burns through Magalia, California, on Nov. 9
| Credit: PETER DASILVA/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Cummings tried to reach Newsum’s caregiver by phone, but was unsuccessful. So, he took matters into his own hands, breaking company protocol and putting her in his truck with the help of a few people nearby, the station reported.

“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,” Cummings told KCRA. “We were on the road.”

The Camp Fire is one of three devastating California wildfires — two in the south and one in the north — that have forced over a quarter of a million people who were in harm’s way to evacuate from their homes, some of which were destroyed in the blazes. The Camp Fire burned through 113,000 acres and was only 25 percent contained by Monday.

Firefighters work to control Camp Fire in Magalia, California
| Credit: John Locher/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Cummings said that is supervisor told him to cut his route short as the blaze spread throughout Butte County. But the longtime waste management driver knew there would be “older” residents in Magalia, and was determined to do all he could to help.

“I tried to stop and help them and let them know that they were coming and let them know that they were coming and make sure they were getting out,” he said. “She was my last stop. I probably went to 45 or 50 people to see if I could help them.”

Firefighter inspects burnt remains after Camp Fire ravages area of Paradise, California
| Credit: JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty

During the five-hour ride to safety, Newsum and Cummings shared details about their lives. He learned that Cummings had beat cancer three times, survived a horrific car accident and had even been a backup singer, according to KCRA.

“I wish I’d known her when she was younger,” he told the station. “I would’ve married her, you know what I mean? It was the best conversation I’ve had in a truck ever.”

Large plume of smoke forms above Paradise, California
| Credit: David Little/Chico Enterprise-Record via AP

At least 31 people have died so far as several fires burn on both ends of the state, according to CBS News. Several families have lost their homes and personal belongings in the blaze.

To help victims of the California wildfires, visit the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation, the California Fire Foundation and the American Red Cross, for more information.