Woman names baby after medic who saved her during wildfire

In this photo taken on Dec. 14, 2018, paramedic Mickey Huber holds 2-day-old baby Zoele Mickey Skinner at Enloe Medical Center in Chico, Calif. (AP)
Updated 25 December 2018

Woman names baby after medic who saved her during wildfire

  • On Dec. 12, more than a month after the fire began, Skinner gave birth via C-section to a full-term, healthy girl and named her after the man she believes saved her life

SAN FRANCISCO: In his 20 years as a paramedic, Mickey Huber assisted in two emergency deliveries. But to him, the most memorable birth is the one that didn’t happen on his watch.
Huber was helping people evacuate from the terrifying wildfire that tore through the Northern California town of Paradise on Nov. 8 when he heard on the scanner about a pregnant woman going into premature labor.
Anastasia Skinner’s baby wasn’t due for another month, but she began to feel contractions as she grabbed her mother’s two dogs and raced to escape the fast-moving blaze. The flames had already hit her car by the time she fought the panic-driven traffic jam out of town and reached a gas station, honking the horn and screaming for help.
“I knew I wasn’t going to make it,” Skinner, 25, said during a phone interview on Friday. “I called my husband and told him goodbye, tell all the kids I love them and make sure they remember me.”
A motorcyclist who saw Skinner in distress flagged a police officer who helped her move to the back seat of her Honda Pilot. Several women who were stuck in the traffic jam brought her blankets and pillows, A retired fire chief came to her aid and someone requested a helicopter to airlift her to the hospital.
Huber, the assistant chief of operations for Butte County Emergency Services, was two miles away but had to get through 30 minutes of gridlock to get to Skinner. When he arrived and evaluated her condition, he knew she couldn’t wait much longer for a helicopter.
“The smoke was thick, and the winds were blowing. The helicopters were having a hard time fighting the fire let alone airlifting patients,” Huber said.
Because Skinner was having a high-risk pregnancy after suffering two miscarriages and other complications related to an inherited disorder, Huber said she may not have made it if she went into full-blown labor.
He arranged a caravan that included three police vehicles to rush Skinner to an ambulance. Then he jumped in the back seat, where he kept her calm until she reached a hospital where her labor was stopped.
“He was sweet. He told me, ‘I’m a guy. I don’t know what this feels like for you, but I’ll try to help you get you through it,’ ” Skinner said. “Then he would yell at people outside of the car, waving his hat and telling them to get out of the way.”
“My goal was to keep her breathing and get her down the hill,” Huber said. “Two of my ambulance crews were trapped by the fire moments before I got to Anastasia so there was a lot of doubt, a lot of worry.”
Skinner said a doctor later told her smoke inhalation put her body under stress and triggered the contractions.
On Dec. 12, more than a month after the fire began, Skinner gave birth via C-section to a full-term, healthy girl and named her after the man she believes saved her life.
“She’s a blessing in every way including what happened at the Camp Fire,” she said about her daughter, Zoele (rhymes with Noel) Mickey Skinner.
Skinner and her husband, Daniel, have three other children, ages 8, 6 and 4.
After getting Skinner to the ambulance, Huber helped with the mass evacuation until the next day. He said he was shocked and honored when he learned the baby was named after him.
“That day was full of a thousand different emotions but that is the strongest memory of the day for me,” Huber said.
More than 50,000 people in Paradise and the neighboring communities of Magalia and Concow were forced to quickly flee the towering, wind-driven flames that burned an area about the size of Chicago — 240 square miles (622 square kilometers) — and became the deadliest US wildfire in at least a century. At least 86 people were killed and 14,000 homes destroyed.
Skinner and her husband, Daniel, lost their home; her mother lost hers too.
“All of our history and what we were as a family, everybody knowing your name and all the things about being in a small town are just gone,” Skinner said.
When her children get sad about the things they lost in the fire, she said she reminds them to count their blessings, including the baby sister who made it alive.
“All of us, including our animals are out. Everybody we know is safe,” Skinner said. “We can replace all the stuff in our house, but we can’t replace each other.”


Camel herding in Western Sahara a passion with pedigree

Updated 21 November 2019

Camel herding in Western Sahara a passion with pedigree

  • In the Western Sahara, a local adage holds that he who has no camel, has nothing
  • "Camels can endure everything: sun, wind, sand and lack of water, and if they could talk, you’d easily hear how intelligent they are,” says herder

DAKHLA, Western Sahara: In the Oued Eddahab desert in Western Sahara, Habiboullah Dlimi raises dairy and racing camels just like his ancestors used to — but with a little help from modern technology.
His animals roam free in the desert and are milked as camels always have been, by hand, at dawn and dusk.
When camels “feed on wild plants and walk all day, the milk is much better,” said the 59-year-old herder, rhapsodizing about the benefits of the nutrient-rich drink, known as the “source of life” for nomads.
But Dlimi no longer lives with his flock.
He lives in town with his family. His camels are watched over by hired herders and Dlimi follows GPS coordinates across the desert in a 4X4 vehicle to reach them.
He is reticent when asked about the size of his herd. “That would bring bad luck,” he said.
He prefers to speak of the gentleness and friendliness of the animals he knows like his own children.
“Camels can endure everything: sun, wind, sand and lack of water, and if they could talk, you’d easily hear how intelligent they are,” he said.

A camel is silhouetted against the sunset in the desert near Dakhla in Morocco-administered Western Sahara, on Oct. 13, 2019. (AFP / FADEL SENNA)


"The desert knows me"
Dlimi comes from a long line of desert dwellers from the Ouled Dlimi tribe.
As tradition dictates, he lists his ancestors going back five generations when introducing himself.
“I know the desert and the desert knows me,” he said.
Like elsewhere, the nomads of Western Sahara are settling, following a shift from rural to urban living.
“Young people prefer to stay in town,” Dlimi said, and herders now mostly come from neighboring Mauritania, whose desert north is traversed by caravans of up to a thousand camels.
Even they “often demand to work in areas covered by (mobile phone) network signal,” he added.
The population of the nearby town of Dakhla has tripled to 100,000 in 20 years, with growth driven by fishing, tourism and greenhouse farming encouraged by Morocco.
In this part of Western Sahara, development projects depend entirely on Rabat.
Morocco has controlled 80 percent of the former Spanish colony since the 1970s and wants to maintain it as an autonomous territory under its sovereignty.
The Polisario Front movement fought a war for independence from 1975 to 1991 and wants a referendum in which the people of Western Sahara choose between independence and integration with Morocco.
The United Nations has been trying to negotiate a political compromise for decades.
Like many in his tribe, Dlimi has family members on the other side of the Western Sahara Wall separating the Moroccan controlled areas from the Polisario controlled areas.
He favors loyalty to Morocco while others back independence, he said.
Tribal affiliation trumps politics, though.
“Tribes are tribes, it’s a social organization,” he said. “There are very strong links between us.”
To “preserve the past for the future,” Dlimi started a cultural association to conserve traditions from a time when there were no borders and “families followed the herds and the clouds.”

A camel herder guides his flock in the desert near Dakhla in Morocco-administered Western Sahara on Oct. 13, 2019. (AFP / FADEL SENNA)


The irony
While Dlimi loves the desert, he does have one complaint: “The camel dairy industry is valued everywhere in the world except here.”
Camel milk is trendy with health-conscious consumers and the lean meat is excellent, Dlimi claims.
Today though, it is small livestock farming that is the main agricultural focus, in response to what non-nomadic Moroccans tend to eat.
The 266,000 square kilometers (106,400 square miles) of Western Sahara under Moroccan control hosts some 6,000 herders, 105,000 camels, and 560,000 sheep and goats, according to figures from Rabat.
In other arid countries, including Saudi Arabia, intensive farming of camels has taken off.
But, while Moroccan authorities have undertaken several studies into developing Western Sahara’s camel industry, these have not so far been acted upon.
Regardless, a local adage holds that he who has no camel, has nothing.
“Some say that Saharans are crazy because when they have money they spend it on four feet,” Dlimi jokes.
For him, 20,000 dirhams ($2,000) spent on a camel is a safe investment.
But it is also a consuming passion.
His Facebook page and WhatsApp messages are filled with talk of camel husbandry techniques, research and racing.
Racing “is a pleasure and it pays,” Dlimi said.
Since the United Arab Emirates funded construction of a camel racing track at Tantan, 900 kilometers (560 miles) to the north, racing animals have appreciated in value and can sell for up to 120,000 dirhams, according to Dlimi.
To train his racing camels, Dlimi chases the young animals across the desert in his 4X4.
The technique has made him an eight-time champion in national competitions, he said.
But camels can be stubborn, Dlimi stressed, telling of how he once sold his best champion for a “very good price,” but the animal refused to race once it had changed hands.