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Woman gives birth, fights off bees, starts wildfire in Northern California

A woman fought off bees, started a fire and survived on apples -- all after giving birth in a lonely stretch of Northern California forest, she told a Bay Area TV station.

The woman, Amber Pangborn, 35, of Oroville, made a hasty decision to take an unfamiliar shortcut while driving to her parents’ house after going into labor Thursday.

Instead, she got lost.

“I thought we were going to die,” she told KCRA-TV. “And there was no cell service, there was no ... there was nothing.”

But Pangborn’s baby wouldn’t wait and she had no choice but to give birth alone. She named her daughter Marisa.

And then came the bees and mosquitoes.

“I tried to not get them to sting her,” Pangborn told KCRA. The bees wanted the placenta, she said with a chuckle. She was stung while defending her daughter, she said.

By Saturday, Pangborn’s desperation reached a fever pitch.

“I was just there at the end, thinking, 'Oh my God." I wasn’t sure if we were going to actually get out of there,” she said.

Pangborn started a fire in a desperate attempt to summon help, but the flames quickly grew out of control.

“Like, the whole side of the mountain caught on fire. I was looking at Marisa and was like, ‘I think Mommy just started a forest fire,’” she said.

But the tactic worked, and Pangborn was spotted by investigators.

“I was crying, I was so happy, I thought we were gonna die,” she said. “I’m so glad someone had finally seen us.”

Mother and baby were rescued Saturday after U.S. Forest Service officials said they received a report of low-lying smoke in the forest.

A Forest Service fire engine and helicopter were sent to the area. There they found Pangborn and her newborn inside the vehicle.

“We did recognize they both needed immediate attention,” agency spokesman Jeremy Croft said.

Firefighters quickly removed them from the path of the quarter-acre fire. The fire is under investigation, officials said in a statement.

"Our thoughts and best wishes continue to be with the mother and baby," Forest Service supervisor Chris French said. "We are very pleased with the professionalism and cool-headed decision-making of our fire response crew."

French said his office could not confirm Pangborn’s story because officials were not present for the birth.

Butte County Sheriff’s Office officials said they did not respond to the call.

Pangborn was treated at an Oroville hospital and has been released, a hospital official said.

The baby was taken to UC Davis Medical Center, where she is in good condition, hospital spokeswoman Phyllis Brown said.

Pangborn’s mother, Dianna Williams, told the L.A. Times that her nine-months-pregnant daughter went to a casino on Wednesday to visit a friend and get a respite from the hot temperatures. Pangborn, she said, was also hoping to induce labor.

After visiting the casino, she decided to head home, but she turned on the wrong road and ran out of gas, her mother said. She was forced to give birth to her baby in the forest.

“They would have never found her if she didn’t start the fire,” her mother said. “She was worried what the wild animals would do.”

When Pangborn didn’t return home, Williams logged onto Facebook and urged anyone with details about her whereabouts to immediately notify her.

Pangborn, who has three other daughters, is looking forward to being reunited with her new baby, Williams said. Because Pangborn had gastric bypass surgery years ago, she said the baby was premature and needs additional care. But Williams said the baby is “doing great” and is “getting better.”

Pangborn could not immediately be reached for comment. Williams said Pangborn is staying with her father and was overwhelmed by the media attention her story has received.

In May, Pangborn described the pains of pregnancy on Facebook.

“Oh man being pregnant at 35 years is a lot rougher than 25 years but get to appreciate it at different times in my life and I know I will miss it even though right now I am getting tired of being pregnant and sharing my body with another human being,” she wrote.

Even though she experienced some difficulty, she said pregnancy was a blessing.

“I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world and I am blessed that I get this opportunity cause some women aren't so lucky,” she wrote.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna and @VeronicaRochaLA.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATED

Updated at 5:27 p.m. to include additional details from the Associated Press and local officials.

Updated at 6:48 p.m. to include comments from Pangborn's mother, Dianna Williams.

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