Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Grant Fuhr can thank a Good Samaritan for helping him, his wife, and former NFL star Sterling Sharpe get out of danger after a close call with a wildfire this week in California.
"It's as close to a natural disaster as I ever want to get," Fuhr said Wednesday. "You get a new respect for fire. Fire from a distance isn't that bad. Fire up close and personal is not that nice."
Deadly wildfires have swept across Napa and Sonoma Counties this week and evacuations have been ordered for parts of Sonoma Valley. Authorities said 17 people have died in the blazes, 11 of them in Sonoma County.
The fires have also left at least 180 people injured and have destroyed more than 3,500 homes and businesses.
Fuhr, who was staying at a hotel in Santa Rosa, Calif., was scheduled to play in the UCSF Medical Center Celebrity Golf Classic with other former sports stars on Monday. That plan changed after an early-morning call from the tournament co-ordinator saying they had to evacuate immediately.
"By then the power was out," Fuhr said from his hometown of Palm Desert, Calif. "They'd lost all power and everything so we were just trying to find our stuff in the dark, get dressed in the dark and figure out what was going on and where we had to go. They said they'd send a car for us but by that time, they'd already shut the roads down so a car couldn't get in.
"So we had to catch a ride with a random stranger."
He said his wife, Lisa, flagged a passing vehicle and asked if they could get a ride. Fuhr estimated the flames were about 1,000 yards away when they left.
"One of the gentlemen that was playing in the tournament happened to have a van and was driving by ... he was nice enough to give us a ride down to San Francisco," Fuhr said. "This is in the middle of the night."
Fire officials say full containment is expected by Saturday. There was no immediate word on the cause.
"I have a new respect for wildfires now," Fuhr said. "It was close enough that you could hear trees popping and stuff."
Fuhr, a native of Spruce Grove, Alta., won the Stanley Cup five times with the Edmonton Oilers. The Hockey Hall of Famer played for five other teams over his 19 seasons in the NHL.
With files from The Associated Press.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press