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Part 1: 'You Could See The Fire, You Could See The Flames'

Alex Tettamanti
Smoke from the Creek Fire billows from a hillside near Mammoth Pool Reservoir on Saturday, September 5, 2020. By this time, the fire had been burning for less than 24 hours, and had ignited more than 10 miles away from the reservoir.

For 17 years, Karla Carcamo’s family had a Labor Day tradition: they gathered all their cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents, family friends, and even family members of family friends, and spent the long weekend camping at Mammoth Pool Reservoir in the Sierra Foothills.

Credit U.S. Forest Service
The view of the Creek Fire on Sept. 5 from nearby Huntington Lake.

Alex Tettamanti and her husband Raul Reyes were regulars at Mammoth Pool, too – the off-roading club they belong to with Vicky Castro and her husband Rolando Rosales also visited the reservoir every Labor Day to play with their quads and jet-skis.

But all of their plans changed when the Creek Fire closed in on them, less than 24 hours after it ignited more than 10 miles away. However, what began as panic and chaos eventually revealed the best of human nature, as heroes in all forms stepped up to help each other out of dire situations.

Escape From Mammoth Pool, a new limited-run podcast from KVPR, is the true story of how 242 people and 16 dogs escaped one of the fastest-moving wildfires in California history. In this first episode, we meet these three families and hear about the quick decisions they had to make in those first moments as the fire hurtled toward them.

New episodes drop on Fridays.


  • Reporter/Producer: Kerry Klein
  • Editor: Alice Daniel
  • Web support: Alex Burke
  • Music: written by Kevin MacLeod (songs: Acid Trumpet, Beauty Flow, Half Mystery, Rising Tide, Unanswered Questions)
  • Music help: Benjamin Boone
  • Sound effects: FreeSound

Below: smoke began to blow across the sun during the off-roading club's hike around lunchtime on Sept. 5, 2020, just minutes before they would begin evacuating. (courtesy of Alex Tettamanti)

This is the first episode of KVPR’s podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool: the true story of how 242 people and 16 dogs escaped one of the fastest-moving wildfires in California’s recorded history.

Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.
Related Content
  • The true story of how 242 people—and 16 dogs—survived one of the fastest-moving, most intense wildfires in California history, as the Creek Fire closed in on their campground at Mammoth Pool Reservoir over Labor Day weekend 2020.