Stranded Woman Gives Birth, Starts a Forest Fire

Amber Pangborn also started a forest fire while trying to signal for help
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 30, 2015 1:40 PM CDT
Mom's Exploit: A Wilderness Birth, Bees, Forest Fire
Smoke hovers in the Plumas National Forest as cattle feed in a field just outside Clio, Calif., on Sept. 22, 2014.   (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)

Being stranded in the middle of a forest for three days with little food and water would be terrifying for anyone. Now imagine this happened to you in the late stages of pregnancy and your unborn child decided that would be the ideal time to make her way into the world. That's exactly what happened to 35-year-old Amber Pangborn, who made a snap decision to take back roads to her parents' house when she started to go into labor Wednesday night, reports KCRA. "I was told about this back road and people had showed it to me a few times, but I had never driven it by myself," she says of her route through California's Plumas National Forest, where she ran out of gas and lost cellphone service. Little did she know that was just the beginning. First order of business: She gave birth to her daughter, Marissa, the next day, by herself.

"I laid out a sleeping [bag] in the backseat, lied down, gripped the handle above the back window, and gave birth to my daughter," she tells KHSL. She didn't cut the umbilical cord right away, fearing her newborn would starve; she survived on three apples and a little water and soda. Then the bee swarms came. "The meat bees came out and were trying to get the placenta. … I was trying to protect [my daughter] from getting stung and I got stung trying," she says. Desperate, she started a signal fire using a can of hairspray and a lighter—a fire that quickly whooshed up the mountainside. "I was looking at Marissa and I told her, 'Honey, I think Mommy just started a forest fire,'" she says. But it worked: The US Forest Service saw the blaze and found them Saturday. (Pangborn's story makes this birth on a plane seem like a cakewalk.)

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