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Woman gets lost, gives birth and starts a forest fire to get rescued

When a laboring California mom ran out of gas after getting lost, she got rescued in a pretty unusual way.

It was a perfect storm for 35-year-old mom-to-be Amber Pangborn. She decided to hop into her car when her labor began and opted to try a shortcut to her mother’s house — and promptly got lost. Her car ran out of gas, she lost cell service, and then, of course, her labor intensified. With no other choice, she stayed in her car and had her baby. But that wasn’t the craziest part of the story.

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Once her daughter, whom she named Marissa, emerged safely into the world, Pangborn had an even bigger concern. How was she going to find help? She fortunately had two bottled drinks and a few apples to subsist on, but it wound up being three days before she was rescued.

During that time, she struggled to remain calm and centered, because every time she tried to leave the vehicle, bees swarmed her and her newborn baby. While her daughter never got stung, Pangborn did, and she realized that getting out and hiking to safety was no longer an option.

Years ago, her father had taught her how to make a fire in an emergency situation, and after three days, she decided that she might attract the attention of rescue workers if she started one. And she definitely did. Digging around in her car, she found a lighter and a can of hairspray, and lit the side of the mountain on fire.


She told Action News Now that the fire went “woosh” and shot up the mountainside. She said, “I was looking at Marissa, and I told her, ‘Honey, I think Mommy just started a forest fire.'”

Fortunately it worked. The fire drew the attention of rescue workers when it triggered the U.S. Department of Forestry fire detection system, and a helicopter was dispatched to put out the fire. Once the new mother and her baby daughter were spotted, they sent out a rescue squad to whisk them away to a local hospital.

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Pangborn’s dad was really relieved to hear that she and her baby were safe. “I truly believe I witnessed a modern-day miracle,” he said. “I know babies are born every day, and to hear such a heroic story, being all by herself for three days, it was almost unbelievable.”

I am relieved the pair came to no harm during the three days alone in the middle of nowhere. I am also glad they weren’t engulfed in flames after she started a fire in a state that is currently riddled by drought.

However, it must be said that there are a few things she did that you should not do when you’re in labor. First of all, you shouldn’t drive a car when you’re in labor. I’ve read about moms who have been on the way to the hospital, being driven by a partner, and they’ve had to pull over because the baby couldn’t wait. I’ve even read about a mom who was actually driving while in labor, and the baby actually came out while she was stopped at a stoplight. Just don’t do it. Also, the fact that she took an unknown shortcut in a car that was running super low on gas was a huge mistake, as was starting a fire that could have very easily raged out of control.

It’s super easy to judge her for her actions, but fortunately her story has a very happy ending. Just keep this in mind the next time you’re in labor and tempted to take a shortcut in a car that has very little gas, because it’s just a bad idea.

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