Jeannette Frescas was not concerned about the Thomas Fire until the massive blaze reached her neighborhood in Ventura, California.
"At midnight, I woke up with a flashlight in my face," Frescas told CNN affiliate KEYT. "I looked out my window and there were flames that were like, a hundred feet, all around us."
Like many residents, Frescas was caught off guard by the fire that has roared across Southern California for 13 days. She's one of tens of thousands of residents who piled into cars and fled as ferocious winds drove the third-largest blaze in modern state history through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
"What was once a paradise was like a war zone," Frescas said of her apartment complex, which was destroyed by the blaze. "It's the scariest thing I've been through in my entire life."