It literally took a village to save Anastasia Skinner’s life.
When the Camp Fire struck on November 8, the 25-year-old Paradise resident drove to her mother’s house to rescue her dogs. She got them into her car—wrestling a 70-pound animal into the backseat was no easy feat for Skinner, who was 35 weeks pregnant at the time—and headed out of town. She was stuck in traffic at the intersection of Clark Road and Skyway when the pains started.
“I was on a three-way call with my husband and my mom,” Skinner recalls. “They thought I was going into labor; I was trying to talk myself out of it.”
As the contractions came faster and faster, reaching three minutes apart, Skinner’s heart rate increased. That’s when she called 911. The dispatcher put out an alert, telling Skinner to honk her horn and wait for help to arrive.
Assistance came quickly, as some members of the community worked to help a neighbor in need. The first person to offer help was a man on a motorcycle who flagged down a police officer. After that, a woman stopped to offer pillows and a blanket from her car. And then a paramedic showed up and called for a helicopter evacuation. The group worked together quickly to help Skinner.
When Mickey Huber, the assistant chief of operations for Butte County Emergency Services, arrived on the scene after fighting for 30 minutes to get through two miles of gridlock, he realized that there wasn’t enough room for the helicopter to land. And Skinner needed to be transported immediately. The group worked to create a convoy that included police and fire trucks to escort Skinner’s car through the jam-packed road of locals escaping the fire zone.
Huber stayed in the backseat with Skinner, keeping her calm and making her laugh—one more member of the Paradise community going above and beyond to help a neighbor. Skinner’s blood pressure was approaching crisis level that could potentially cause a stroke, and Huber knew he had to work to keep her calm. He tried to make Skinner laugh, telling her that he couldn’t know what she was going through because he was a man but that he was going to try. He tried to distract her. “He was asking me, ‘What’s my name?’ and then jokingly, ‘Do you actually know my name?'” she remembers. Skinner credits him—and everyone else who put her first that day—with saving her life.
On arriving at the Enloe Medical Center in Chico, doctors were able to stop her labor with medication. They treated and stabilized her, and a few days later, the family drove to a relative’s house in Nevada. On December 12, Skinner gave birth to a baby girl. Anastasia and her husband Daniel decided to honor Huber, the man who came to her rescue, by naming their daughter Zoele Mickey Skinner.
Huber visited the hospital where he had a chance to hold the baby girl named after him. A picture of the gathering shows Huber grinning happily. “That day [of the fire] was full of a thousand different emotions but being able to help Skinner is the strongest memory for me,” Huber told the Associated Press.
Today, everyone is doing well. Zoele Mickey Skinner is “beautiful and huge, 11 pounds,” Skinner says of her daughter. “All of our other kids have the same initials, so [naming her after Mickey] changed her initials. But it was worth it.”