By Elizabeth Booth, CNN
Margaret Jackson was worried. It was hot, windy and the wildfires whipping through California were starting to climb up her tree-lined property in Paradise.
The battle ground of the fire just happened to be a towering sequoia, one of the largest trees in the world. These giant trees (also known as black oaks) often double as firebreaks for rural areas where keeping out wildfires can be a challenge. But a relentless blaze had broke out in the leafy grove.
So Jackson called her neighbors for help. And in less than an hour they had almost completely completed the only line she could see.
Jackson lost her house to the Camp Fire in Northern California on Sunday. The blaze is one of several raging across the state right now, and has already claimed 63 lives. Smoke has blanketed much of California, and it could stay for the next several days.
CNN Travel spoke to Jackson about her experience the day that wildfire tore through her home and has since spread to her neighborhood, and how her oak was put to such good use.
CNN: It was blazing hot when you started the fight.
Margaret Jackson: It got up to the fireplace. I was concerned that it would get caught on the roof of my home. Then a couple of neighbors came to my house, the fire broke out about half a mile down the road. The wind was blowing it to the south, and there was a glow.
We knew we needed to move some trees out of the way so there would be a line. We had a fire near the top, toward the backside of the tree and the fire broke out.
(She said she does not know the exact size of the fire.) The wind shifted and it went to the north. It came back in and, in a matter of minutes, the tree became a firebreak.
CNN: How did the other trees get affected?
Jackson: My neighbors came and had done their side and tried to get the tree taken care of. They were a little worried that it would get over to the north side. We stayed on top of it and both sides of the tree were taken care of.
Some of the trees were scorched by the fire. I didn’t want to cut them up. We had them just driving bare-headed around in the garden and as far as we knew it was all safe.
CNN: Did they know how well the tree was protected?
Jackson: They knew about it. They knew how big it was and they knew that the tree had survived and worked. They knew when we would make the tree into a firebreak. It was a big deal to our community.
We had neighbors who came and picked the firefly flowers in the garden and helped us take care of them for the community. It was just a tremendous honor and a privilege to have a tree that everyone in town was in love with.
CNN: Could you have done anything differently if you had known how hard it would be?
Jackson: No way. We lived in the Bay Area and we could see the smoke and a big bright green cloud. They were doing their job. I’m so thankful that they did their job.