Washington wildfire: Woman immediately regrets going back to check on house

Emotional escape from Okanogan Complex fire
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Emotional escape from Okanogan Complex fire 00:48

(CNN)If you're in a mandatory wildfire evacuation zone, and you're desperate to check on your house, please do everything you can to make sure it's safe.

That's the lesson Laura Love hopes people will take from an emotional video she shot while, in her words, she "screwed up and got trapped" in the state's largest wildfire in history.
Love, a 55-year-old musician in Okanogan, Washington, recorded the harrowing moments on August 20 as she drove down Highway 22 surrounded by flames. She had evacuated the day before to a motel and wanted to check on her house and pick up a broom and dust mop to clean up her motel room.
Her house sits on the border of the Okanogan Complex fire.
    Love lives in a cabin on an 80-acre plot that she shares with two other women. When she went to check on her property, that section of the road was closed, but transportation crews were letting in homeowners with proper identification for brief checks on their properties. She got to her home just fine; the trouble came when she tried to leave.
    "The flames were close to my house, so I decided to get out and hurry back down the road I came up, when I got trapped in the flames. There was fire on the road behind me, in front of me and on both sides of me," she recalled. "The winds were huge, smoke and ash were blowing onto us and visibility was horrible."
    She said she was panicking in her car when a firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service "came from nowhere" and guided her through the fire.
    "There's fire everywhere, I can feel the heat," Love cries, as she follows the escort truck to safety. "I screwed up. I'm so sorry."
    As she wrote on CNN iReport, "My U.S.F.S. angel told me to roll up my windows and go through the flames as fast as I could. He said it was clear on the other side and we had to do it. I've never been so afraid in my whole life. I didn't even catch his name or get to thank him as he had to rush on to another hot spot after guiding me out. This man was my hero, and I credit him for saving my life today."
    Love shared the video on YouTube, and later CNN iReport, as a lesson for other people to understand how serious wildfires can be.
    "I thought I was filming my own death, and if I did live through it, I had this as an example for people of what not to do."
    Jeff Adamson, a spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Transportation, said that in this case, at the direction of Okanogan County, the department's maintenance crew allowed no through-traffic but residents with proper identification could enter at their own risk to check on their residences or their animals.
    He said the crew members at the barricade had no way of knowing what the specific conditions were beyond what they could see over their shoulders.
    "Frankly, no one could ever predict if, when, or where a wind gust will cause a fire to jump a highway. I'm just very thankful the woman was apparently unhurt."
    Love said the pull to check on her house was just too powerful. She found herself back there on Tuesday, but this time, she got a lot more information from neighbors, and the transportation crews told her the situation was much better.
    "We built this house with our own hands," she said. "It's just beautiful here. You don't just walk away from your dream. But this time, I got a lot more information before I came."