SAN ANTONIO - Allyn Pierce's former truck is an impressive, if not startling, sight.
Melted plastic and scorched, chipping paint scar the passenger side of the white Toyota Tundra he used to flee the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California's history. The damage of the still-working truck was on full display Friday as Pierce showed it off to the same people at the San Antonio Toyota plant who helped build the truck.
"I know it's a truck, but to me, it's what allowed me to see my family," Pierce said.
Pierce was working as the intensive care unit manager for a hospital in Paradise, California, when the Camp Fire began on Nov. 8, 2018. After seeing his patients and his staff evacuated, Pierce left in his Tundra with two other staff members.
"We drove down into the gully. It was already on fire, and the fire was coming behind us, as well. And, you know, (you could see) explosions, like, cars catching on fire, like, as they're driving. You're watching people's bumpers melt, like, literally just melt off their car," Pierce said, remembering the fire.
The truck eventually became trapped, Pierce said. While his passengers got into a nearby firetruck, he stayed in his truck.
"I kind of thought it was over at that point, but I didn't want to trap people. The people directly around me were all staff members, and I wasn't going to be trapping them in the fire because I got out of my truck," Pierce said.
Fortunately, a bulldozer plowed some flaming trucks out of the way, and Pierce was able to find a path out through the woods, turning around and heading back to the hospital with a burned but working truck.
Pierce praised the truck on social media, calling it a "#perfectmarshmellow" (sic). Toyota has since given him a new Tundra, while his old one, which his insurance decided was a total loss, was bought by Toyota.
As Pierce visited the Toyota Motor Manufacturing plant on the South Side where the Tundra was made, he had a chance to meet with the same workers who helped finish off his truck and were on the floor when it rolled off the line.
"Just to be able to bring it here with the people that assembled this vehicle that kept me safe, it's an honor. It really is," Pierce said.
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