'It was like a ring of fire': Family trapped by Creek Fire recalls moments of terror, despair

Christian Aviles and his 17-year-old sister Priscilla escaped with their lives, but the inferno left them with physical scars and lasting emotional trauma.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A family trip turned into a nightmare in Madera County.

"Looking around the lake - it was like a ring of fire. It looked like everything was on fire, everything," says Karla Carcamo.

Karla and her family were some of the many trapped at Mammoth Pool Reservoir when the Creek Fire engulfed their campsite.

RELATED: Creek Fire: 214 people airlifted from Mammoth Pool reservoir in daring rescue

They escaped with their lives, but the inferno left them with physical scars and lasting emotional trauma.

"Pictures just flash everywhere and little noises trigger me," says Karla's sister Priscilla Aviles.

The family unknowingly put themselves in harm's way during their annual camping trip.

About 200 of their family and closest friends were staying at Wagner's Campground.

They were there less than 24 hours before the blaze closed in on them on Saturday afternoon.

Karla knew it was time to go, but not all of her family were present.

Some of them, including her brother Christian Aviles and 17-year-old sister Priscilla, had gone hiking and were nowhere to be seen.

As flames quickly approached they had no choice but to abandon their campground and head to the Mammoth Pool Reservoir.

Meanwhile Christian and Priscilla came face-to-face with the wildfire.

"Trees snapping left and right all around us and the sound of the fire eating up everything," recalls Christian of those terrifying moments.

As they stumbled through thick black smoke they came across a glimmer of hope - a group of campers about to take off in two trucks.

Christian hopped in the back of one truck while Priscilla gripped on tightly to the trailer of another.

As they drove off, the intense heat radiating from the fire seared them.

"We were going down the road and we pretty much went through an oven because both sides of the road were on fire," says Christian.

The truck Priscilla was in crashed into a pole and sent her flying.

"I fell to the ground and I was just on the ground and I had already thought I was done. I had completely given up at that point," says Priscilla.

She passed out and when she opened her eyes she was on another truck.

They were on their way to Mammoth Pool where they reunited with Karla.

"We just ran to them and I just hugged her and hugged him," recalls Karla.

She, along with two nurses, aided her siblings and others who were injured.

Her brother and sister suffered second- and third-degree burns.

"We were passing out pain killers like they were freaking candy," she says.

After what seemed like an eternity, the National Guard was able to fly in on Chinook Helicopters and rescue them.

Action News captured the moments Christian and Priscilla stepped off the helicopter.

Carcamo was one of the last to make it out and remembers the unsettling feeling she was overcome with as she was flown out.

"As we were flying we could see people flashing their lights. I don't know what campsite they were in, but you could see them flashing their lights. My dad was like look, they are stuck too," she says.

The family has set up a GoFundMe account.
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