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BREWSTER, Wash. -- In the time it took Mark Nelson to grab some of his important papers and his cat, the fire had cross nearly a quarter mile. He didn t have time to put on his boots.

Nelson ran barefoot with his cat to the mini van parked on his rural Brewster driveway. They drove only a few yards before heavy flames and smoke overtook them.

Unable to see, Brewster ran off the road and drove blindly until getting stuck. Moments after he bailed out and ran up the burning hillside, his van was engulfed in flames. He made it to the main road, but the flames were sweeping toward him. He couldn t outrun them, so he made a major decision.

I had to get behind the fire, said the 60-year-old carpenter.

He and his cat ran toward the fire. Flames on the sides of the road were so hot, they severely burned his face, hands and body.

At the last minute he dropped to his belly, curled and up and let the flames roll over and past him.

It was over in a flash.

Nelson survived. He walked five miles, passing the burning homes of many of his neighbors before a fire crew met him on the road and drove him to the hospital.

His home, which has survived many fires since it was built in 1896, was in ashes. His hand, side and legs were in bandages. But he and his cat Fluffy are alive and Nelson can start to think about rebuilding.

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