Shane Wallen was along with his dad on a torturous drive out of Paradise, down the Skyway toward Chico.
His father, Bob Wallen, was in his car with the family pets. Shane Wallen was 200 miles away at the 49ers facility in Santa Clara, where he serves as the team’s assistant strength and conditioning coach.
They were together on the phone.
“He was telling me what he saw,” Shane Wallen said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.
“He was watching 15 to 20 homes burn right in front of him -- businesses, structures, all being burned right in front of him. He’s sitting there saying there’s 10-to-15-foot flames on both sides of the Skyway, and he’s driving right through the middle of it.”
His boss, 49ers strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright, told Shane Wallen if he had to leave to help his family, he should not even think twice about it. And last Thursday evening, just hours after the fire ripped through Paradise, Wallen left the Bay Area to return to his home area.
Tight end George Kittle gave his old bed to Wallen, who strapped it onto his truck to deliver to his dad.
The town of Paradise was decimated in the Camp Fire. As of Thursday morning, there have been 56 confirmed deaths with 297 people still missing. The fire has destroyed 140,000 acres with 40-percent containment.
There have been 8,650 residences and 260 commercial buildings destroyed. Wallen’s father’s house was burned to the ground, leaving just a chimney standing. He was one of more than 50,000 people in Paradise and surrounding areas to be evacuated.
Wallen considers Chico and Paradise his hometowns. He split time as he was growing up between his mom's place in Chico and his father's home of the past 20 years. His mother passed away on July 4, 2012, from cancer.
[JOHNSON: 49ers host fire-struck Paradise High School team on Monday Night Football]
After arriving the area on Thursday evening, Shane Wallen said he met a pregnant woman and her boyfriend, as well as a family with children, sleeping in their cars in a Walmart parking lot in Chico.
Hotels were completely booked and shelters were full. He said he plans to continue to supply blankets, clothing, whatever is needed to lend any assistance.
Wallen returned to the Chico area during the 49ers’ bye week. On Wednesday, he was taken on a tour of the devastation of the Paradise area.
“Moving forward, that’s the same plan I’m going to have when I go back, is to try to help anyone and everyone I can,” Wallen said.
Wallen started a GoFundMe fundraiser to assist those impacted by the fire with a goal of raising $50,000.