Man saves mule from freezing pool after devastating California wildfire

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A mule was stuck in a freezing pool in Paradise, Calif. on Nov. 11, 2018. Jeff Hill and a friend, Geoff Sheldon, rescued it. Photo: Jeff Hill

To say things have been hard for Jeff Hill and his family members who lost nearly everything they own in Paradise, Calif. because of the Camp Fire would be a gross understatement.

The home the 29-year utility worker at the Paradise Irrigation District lived in with his girlfriend, who is seven months pregnant, burned. So did his mom’s house. And his grandfather’s. And his friends. And some of his aunts and uncles.

But there was glimmer of happiness and hope for him this weekend.

As he was checking on property damage in his neighborhood, Hill and his friend, Geoff Sheldon spotted a mule, freezing in a friend’s pool.

“We were expecting to walk up and see a big pile of ashes,” Hill said by phone from Chico, Calif., where he is staying. “When we saw the house, which was still standing, we found a mule, shivering to death.”

He and Sheldon first tried to haul the mule out with a chain. But she was too heavy. They then decided to use the blue pool cover to drag the animal out of the water and set her free. She and another mule, who had been pacing nearby, walked off into the woods. 

Helping the mule has been the highlight of this devastation for Hill, who describes his feelings as “numb” after the Camp Fire raging in Butte County has destroyed more than 6,500 structures and killed 42 people since last Thursday. 

“Every day’s been running together,” he said.

Hill, fortunately, has fire insurance. But as for now, his work is on hold and he’s trying to raise money for about 20 relatives, all of whom has lost their homes and belongings. 

“Everybody lost everything,” he said. “Usually you go to your mom’s house, the safe zone, if something bad happens. That’s not how it is this time.” 

IF YOU'RE INTERESTED in helping Hill and his family, his GoFundMe page is here.

This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.