California Fires: A Hero Among the Flames

The heroic story of a Veteran who was trapped by the flames


As part of the normal teenage life, all high schoolers find themselves getting mad at their parents. But deep down inside we still love them and would never want them permanently gone from our lives.

At 10:12 a.m. on Thursday, November 8, 2018, I received a text that meant I might never see my mom again.

The text was sent by a close family friend that said my mother was unable to evacuate a fire that was terrorizing the town of Paradise, California and was sheltering in place at Feather River Hospital.

I immediately asked my teacher if I could step outside, I was terrified. I had already lost my dad at a young age, I couldn’t bear to lose another parent.

But I knew my mom would have a good handle on the situation. Having been in the Air Force for 14 years as an Emergency Services Physician, and now an ER doctor she had plenty of experience. But this didn’t mean she would still return home safely.

We didn’t hear from her until 1:04 p.m. when she told me that she was okay. Three hours doesn’t sound like a lot but I spent that entire time barely being able to focus enough in class, and just waiting and praying for that text.

Apparently, her hospital got word at 8:00 a.m. that a brush fire had started and was spreading fast. Right off the bat, my mom started giving orders that patients needed to be evacuated in case the fire came towards the hospital.

Everyone worked together and each and every patient was sent on an ambulance to be transferred to a different hospital. Being in the military she made sure everyone else was okay, but making her the last one to leave.

As she was saving her patients the fire continued to sweep through the town of Paradise destroying hundreds of structures and leading to mass migration out of the area. Exits that used to be streets became parking lots. Everyone was trying to escape the inferno.

After multiple attempts of trying different streets and exits my mom returned to the hospital and sheltered in place, afraid that this would be her deathbed.

But it turned out that she wasn’t the only one, other staff saw how backed up it was and came back as well.

Even some of the ambulances with incredibly sick patients couldn’t leave the town without running the risk of being burned up by the fire, so they returned to the hospital.

My mom came up with the idea of setting out hospital beds and gurneys outside on the hospital’s parking lot since asphalt can’t catch on fire. My mom provided medical attention to firefighters, old people, and burn patients.

My mom and other staff raided the hospital looking for medical supplies, food, and any source of clean water.

Then it took a turn for the worst, the hospital caught on fire and couldn’t be saved. Evacuation still wasn’t possible with the roads still being blocked.

My mom finally got word around 3:00 p.m. that the roads were clear and evacuation was started.

She drove by cars that had begun to melt due to the immense heat and said it looked like nighttime with all the smoke. But she finally returned to Rocklin at 6:00 p.m.

Not letting fear overtake her my mom took care of people that had nowhere else to turn.

For me not only am I able to tell my mom’s heroic story, but remind me to be thankful for each and every second I get to spend with her and my brother.

As of Thursday morning there have been 56 reported deaths and many hundreds more on the missing list due to the Camp Fire.