November 22, 2018 12:23 PM

The world was burning from the Camp Fire when Tamara Ferguson made what she thought were her final phone calls, to her children. She was saying goodbye.

“I’m trapped in the fire. It’s all around me. I love you,” she told them, according to the Los Angeles Times, which recounted her harrowing story of near-death.

“You don’t understand. I’m not going to make it,” Ferguson, a 42-year-old nurse, told her kids, the Times reports.

“I was the best mother I could be,” she said. “I’m sorry for the mistakes I made. I’m so sorry.”

According to the Times, this is how Ferguson had become trapped: A nurse at Feather River Hospital in Paradise, California, she had stayed for some 45 minutes to assist in the evacuation of dozens of patients.

Courtesy Tamara Ferguson

When at last she got into an ambulance to escape the encroaching Camp Fire, she only made it a mile before the flames forced her group to stop.

Ferguson took shelter in the garage of a nearby home along with other medical personnel and hospital patients, including a mother who had just given birth by cesarean section, the Times reports.

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Tamara Ferguson (bottom) with firefighters and other medical personnel
Courtesy Tamara Ferguson

When a firefighter arrived, the news was more than grim. It was hopeless. And so Ferguson called her children — four daughters and a son, only two of whom are older than 18 — to say she wouldn’t be coming home.

Amid the smoke and ash and so much suffocating heat, however, there came relief. According to the Times, that firefighter came back, instructing Ferguson’s group on how to clear the area around the house and how to wet the roof and fence with water.

Eventually they were able to return to the hospital.

Eventually, the fire began to recede.

Eventually, Ferguson went home.

A couple embraces while looking at the remains of their home, which burned in Northern California's Camp Fire
A neighborhood in Paradise, California, after the deadly Camp Fire blazed through

Dozens Dead and Hundreds Still Missing

Ferguson’s story is a rarity out of the two major wildfires that have been burning at both ends of California, leaving behind them vast stretches of nothing.

The Camp Fire in northern Paradise, which came so close to killing her, has killed at least 83 others since it started on Nov. 8, state fire officials say. The Woolsey Fire to the south, which began the same day outside Los Angeles, has killed three.

More than 10,000 homes have been destroyed, leaving many more families homeless.

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On Wednesday, officials said the Woolsey Fire was contained.

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The Camp Fire was 90 percent contained as of Thursday. According to the New York Times, it is already the deadliest such fire in the state’s history — which the governor has linked to the effects of man-made climate change.

More than 500 people remain missing in the destruction, ABC News reports.

The causes of both blazes are still being investigated, according to state officials.

“The wall of fire came so fast,” Malibu local Nora Cohen told PEOPLE.

Paradise resident Monia Pezzi described a scene of total devastation: “The whole town was on fire.”

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

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