California Wildfires: As She Evacuated Patients From The Hospital, Her Home Burned


Hundreds of homes in the Coffey Park neighborhood that were destroyed by the Tubbs Fire on October 11, 2017, in Santa Rosa, California.April Dembosky
October 15, 2017

Julayne Smithson was working an overnight shift in the Intensive Care Unit at the Kaiser Permanente hospital in Santa Rosa, Calif., when massive wildfires started racing through the city late last Sunday.

Smithson had no idea how close they were. She was too busy taking care of her patient. Then, she says, “One of the nurses came up to me and she said, ‘Julayne, I’m sorry, but your house is not going to make it.'”

Smithson, 55, recently moved from Indiana and had just bought a new home a few weeks ago. From the hospital window, she could see the flames moving through her neighborhood.

“I was so busy working the last couple of weeks that I didn’t get my insurance, which I never do. I never ever, ever go uninsured,” she says. “I kept saying, ‘Tomorrow, I’m going to do that. Tomorrow, I’m going to do that.’ ”

Smithson asked a colleague to watch her patient while she raced home to try to save a few things. The fire was a block away.

“I knew I didn’t have much time,” she says. “So I ran inside and I thought, ‘I have to get my nursing documents, because if I’m going to lose everything I own, I have to be able to work, to care for patients.'”

She grabbed the papers, a pair of scrubs and a nightgown, and raced back to the ICU. Over the next two hours, smoke filled the hospital.

“All of a sudden the police busted in the door and they said, ‘Everybody out! ‘Grab what you can carry, get your patients, and go now,'” she recalls.

One of Kaiser’s emergency room doctors took charge as the fire approached, setting up a disaster command center, and making the call to evacuate the hospital’s 130 patients.

“It’s a really challenging decision to make, one you don’t make lightly,” says Joshua Weil, Kaiser’s ER doctor in charge that night. “You have to weigh the potential risk of moving hospitalized patients and patients from the emergency department, versus the risk of keeping them where they are.”

He decided to evacuate when the fire moved suddenly toward the hospital. Firefighters told him the blaze was 100 to 200 yards from the property, posing an imminent threat to the hospital structure.

“They literally used the words, ‘We’re making the last stand,'” Weil says.

Staff immediately started assessing and triaging patients.

Patients who could walk, staff guided to a bus provided by the city. Patients who couldn’t walk, like Smithson’s critical patient, had to wait.

Nearby Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital was also evacuating, and they had close to 80 patients, so ambulances were in high demand.

“A lot of nurses and staff were putting patients in their cars and driving them to the hospital,” she says. “And then other people were carrying people on blankets, people who couldn’t walk, and putting them in cars.”

In the end, Smithson says they waited about 15 minutes for an ambulance, but it was a long 15 minutes. Her team was manually pumping air into her patient’s mouth with an air bag. A team of five had to push him, in his bed with all the monitors, through the parking lot several times to get away from fast-moving smoke and flames. His medication was running low and he was getting agitated.

“The pharmacy pre-mixes those medicines for us, but we didn’t have time to prepare extra medication for a trip like that because it just came up so fast,” she says.

Three hours passed from the moment the evacuation was called to the moment the last patient was out of the hospital, Weil says.

Smithson’s patient and others made it safely to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, about four miles away. About a hundred less critical patients were transferred to Kaiser’s hospital in San Rafael, about 40 miles away.

Beatrice Immoos was one of the nurses there getting prepped to receive the influx.

“We were essentially told that we were in a disaster situation and all ratios were out the window,” she says, meaning nurses would be assigned more patients than usually allowed under California law. “They were going to start triaging people through the ER.”

She remembers patients arriving wearing colored armbands, indicating the severity of their health status. These were likely assigned by paramedics during transport, Weil says.

“This level of disaster is a new one for us,” says Immoos. “It was very emotional, but there was a lot of resolve. Every day, nurses are always working with the common goal of taking care of our patients, and in a disaster, it’s just even more hands on deck working to get them the best treatment.”

The hospital put out calls for volunteer nurses to come help in San Rafael. Many responded, including Julayne Smithson. Her husband was supposed to fly in from Indiana in two days, but with their new home gone, she told him to wait.

“I said, ‘Well, I don’t have anywhere to go right now. And we don’t know what’s going on,'” she says. “So I said ‘I’ll go to San Rafael and help there.'”

Another nurse offered Smithson a pullout couch in a spare room. She’s been sleeping there during the day, and working 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. every night since the fire. She says all she wants to do right now is help patients, so she doesn’t have to think about what she’s lost.

Courtesy: News Network/Discuss

California couple hid in pool as deadly wildfires swallowed everything around them

As a deadly wildfire devoured everything around them, a California couple had to think fast – or risk certain death.

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Jan Pascoe, 65, and her husband, John, 70, were trapped in their Santa Rosa home and watched as their serene hillside view became an ominous “wall of fire,” Los Angeles Times reported.

As they desperately searched for shelter, they recalled the neighbor’s pool.

Jan called 911 and told the dispatcher she and John would be in the pool and asked officials to search for them.

“We were in survival mode,” Jan said. “What are we going to do? What are we going to do?”

The couple debated jumping into the frigid, murky pool. Then a nearby tree caught on fire.


“The heat was ‘whoa,’” John Pascoe said. He told the Los Angeles Times he stripped down to a t-shirt and he told Jan to “jump in now.”

In this Oct. 11, 2017 photo, smoke rises from fires in Santa Rosa, Calif. Gusting winds and dry air forecast for Thursday, Oct. 12, could drive the next wave of devastating wildfires that are already well on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history. (Derek Anderson via AP)

The devastating wildfires are already well on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history.  (AP)

Jan entered the debris-filled water wearing pajama bottoms and a tank top. The two placed shirts over their face to avoid the embers.

The couple remained in the 4-foot-deep pool for six hours until the fire subsided.

“I just kept going under,” Jan said, “and I kept saying, ‘How long does it take for a house to burn down?’ We were freezing.”

A wildfire burns along the Highway 29 Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, near Calistoga, Calif. Officials say progress is being made in some of the largest wildfires burning in Northern California but that the death toll is almost sure to surge. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The couple held each other in the cold water of the pool for six hours until the fire blew away.  (AP)

The couple kept warm by holding one another and telling each other how much they loved each other.

The couple had tried to evacuate just after their daughter, Zoe Giraudo, told them her father-in-law’s residence about 40 miles away burned down. She urged them to leave the house. The couple tried to drive but the fire blocked them from leaving.


The Pascoe’s house and cars burned down. Their cat is missing. But they say they are lucky to be alive.

Giraudo and her sister Mia, 32, told the Los Angeles Times that she was worried her parents were dead after not hearing from them. When they got word that their parents were alive, they broke out into tears.

“I started screaming,” Zoe said. “The first thing mom said to me was ‘I feel so bad I wasn’t able to get ahold of you.’ ‘You’re apologizing to me? After all you’ve been through?’”

The wildfires, which broke out Sunday in Sonoma County, have killed at least 31 people.

Courtesy: Fox News

Wineries coping with California wildfires as death toll reaches 31

Wineries coping with California wildfires as death toll reaches 31
Officials have warned throughout the week that conditions in Northern California would worsen due to wildfires, with the death toll reaching 31 so far. Meanwhile, the state’s famous wine country in Sonoma and the Napa Valley is being seriously threatened.

On Thursday, 22 fires continued to rampage across California’s northern region, KCRA reported.

Over 8,000 firefighters are now fighting the flames, and the wildfires have destroyed more than 3,500 building and homes, totaling over 170,000 acres. They have also displaced some 25,000 people.

Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said recovery teams with cadaver dogs had been searching what’s left of some people’s homes in the county.

“We have found bodies that were completely intact, and we have found bodies that were no more than ash and bone,” he said, BBC News reported.

“We are not even close to being out of this emergency,” Mark Ghilarducci, the state director of emergency services said to reporters, according to BBC News.

On top of the loss of life, and destruction to property, the fires in Napa and Sonoma County could also prove devastating to the state’s wineries and grape crops.

The wine industry got lucky with warm weather in Napa and Sonoma in the late summer and early fall, due to the heat contributing to the ripening process. This, in turn, brought along an earlier-than-usual harvest. But this year, only 10 to 30 percent of the grape crop currently remains on the vine, which is less than usual for the early days of October, the Orange County Register reported.

Even if the grapes make it through the flames unscathed, some of those grapes will be useless for the production of wine due to, what is called ‘smoke taint’. This term is used to describe the the process in which smoke severely damages the flavor of the crop, and would be noticeable when tasting the wine.

“In really bad cases, it can really have the taste of an ashtray,” Anita oberholster, a professor of viticulture and enology at the University of California at Davis said, according to CNBC.

The fires are said to be so severe that not a single part of wine country will be unaffected. Vineyards miles away from the flames could succumb to the smoke.

“The smoke taint thing will be global — both valleys,” Alex Andrawes, a wine broker in Texas, and owner of, said, Fortune reported. “No pockets spared, I fear.”

Wine writer, marketer and winery co-owner Julie Ann Kodmur commented on the wildfires from her home in Napa County.

READ MORE: Satellite images show devastating extent of California wildfires (PHOTOS)

“We are living through an unbelievable thing right now, from the air heavy [and] thick with ashes to the point you almost can’t see a block ahead of you, to all of the devastation,” she said, according to the Register.

Kodmur commented that her town in Napa has not been hit by the fires, but she worries very much about the wineries nearby.

“[My] concern is for Smith-Madrone,” she said, speaking about her family’s winery. “There are two fires in different places which could conceivably head that way. Stu and Charlie [Smith, brothers and the winery’s co-founders] are doing everything they can do to prepare.”

The wine institute estimates that California is the world’s fourth-largest producer of wine. And in 2015, the wine industry employed around 325,000 people statewide, while taking in more than $57 billion in economic activity. This includes $7.2 billion in income related to tourism, according to the Register.

Courtesy: RT

Catastrophic wildfires rage in California as death toll rises

Fast-moving fires engulfing Northern California have left behind a trail of destruction. Authorities have issued a state of emergency as flames consume houses, businesses and infrastructure throughout the state.

USA Kalifornien Santa Rosa Zerstörung durch Großbrand (Reuters/S. Lam)

California firefighters are facing a worsening situation as winds are expected to pick up to around 50 mph (80 km/h), spreading what has been called one of the worst fires in the state’s history. The number of fires increased from 17 to 22 Wednesday and the number of confirmed dead has increased to 21. Some 170,000 acres (690 square kilometers) have been consumed by the fire, as well as more than 3,500 homes. Firefighters described the situation as “very active on several fronts.”

Watch video01:46

Wildfires tear through California

Unknown number of missing

The largest fires are burning in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties in the heart of California’s wine region. On Monday, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in the area. Large-scale evacuations are currently under way and the number of missing is unknown.

In Sonoma county alone, 670 people are unaccounted for. As of Tuesday, some 20,000 residents had been evacuated from their homes. Authorities have set up a registry for missing persons and encouraged residents to sign in once they were safe. Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said that many missing residents had been found, though they had not logged onto the registry site.

Karte USA Kalifornien Sonoma Napa Yuba ENG


California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Chief Ken Pimlott called the Northern California wildfires, “a serious, critical and catastrophic event.” Tens of thousands of residents have also been left without power as a result of fires destroying infrastructure. Smoke and ash from the fires has been so intense in neighboring San Francisco that residents there have been told to stay indoors and to wear breathing masks if possible. No rain is forecast for the area for the next week.

As firefighters attempt to contain the Northern California blazes, their colleagues in Southern California announced that more than 1,600 firefighters in Orange County had contained roughly 40 percent of the brushfires burning there. Authorities say they hope to have those fires completely contained by Saturday.

Plea for federal assistance

California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris yesterday called on US President Donald Trump and Congress to provide federal assistance to their ravaged state, saying damage exceeded that which it could bear alone. On Monday, Vice-President Mike Pence, who was fundraising for Republican congressional candidates in California, left his prepared remarks to say that “the federal government stands ready to provide any and all assistance to the state of California as your courageous firefighters and first responders confront this widening challenge.”

js/bk (AP, Reuters)





Courtesy: DW

Devastation of California’s raging wildfires laid bare in drone footage (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Devastation of California’s raging wildfires laid bare in drone footage (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
Drone footage and satellite photos reveal the destructive path of one of the worst firestorms in California’s history, as wildfires continue to rage across northern parts of the state.

Seventeen people have been confirmed dead with officials warning that this figure could rise.

More than 15,000 acres of land, including vineyards, in more than eight Northern California counties were engulfed by the flames of several combining fires, Tuesday. Meanwhile it’s estimated at least 1,500 structures have been destroyed.

READ MORE: 17 dead as wildfires rage in Northern California

Drone footage from above Santa Rosa, a city in Sonoma County, reveals an apocalypse-like neighborhood.

Scorched land and wrecks of buildings can be seen as the drone sweeps through the inferno-ravaged residential area.

The destruction on one side is contrasted with apparently intact houses across the road.

A series of satellite images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveal the active hot spots where the fires are rising in temperature.

Data from the VIIRS instrument aboard NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP created this image of the  burning in yesterday Oct. 9th.

The wildfires are continuing to rage as firefighters struggle to tackle the out-of-control blazes.

More than 20,000 people were ordered to evacuate as of Tuesday night. California Highway Patrol said that it’s likely this will be “one of the worst disasters in California history.”

“You gotta be patient. We are just trying to keep people alive.” Captain Mike Palacio said.

Courtesy: RT

California wildfires leave devastation

At least 17 people have died and around 2,000 homes and businesses have been destroyed as devastating wildfires sweep through California’s wine country. Over 25,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes.

Raging wildfires continued to ravage California’s wine country on Tuesday, killing at least 17 people and forcing firefighters to evacuate thousands of residents.

Most of the deaths occurred in Sonoma County, located just north of San Francisco, while some 25,000 people were forced to also flee from Napa and Yuba counties, where some of the largest blazes were reported. Over 150 residents in the county are reportedly missing.

“The weather has been working in our favor, but it doesn’t mean it will stay that way,” said Brad Alexander, a spokesman of the governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

The blazes have also left at least 185 people injured. The wildfire was reportedly 40 percent contained by the end of Tuesday local time.

Officials said the winds propelled the blaze across 12.5 square miles (32 sq. kilometers) of northern Orange County.

Over 240 members of the California National Guard helped first responders by ferrying fuel and helping with medical evacuations.

Read more: Climate change sets the world on fire

The scale and ferocity of the flames forced rescuers to focus on evacuating local residents, even if it meant losing structures to the fire. In all, some 2,000 homes and local businesses had been destroyed by Monday evening.

Karte USA Kalifornien Sonoma Napa Yuba ENG

The devastating blazes prompted the governor of California, Jerry Brown, to issue a state of emergency. Brown wrote in the declaration: “These fires have destroyed structures and continue to threaten thousands of homes, necessitating the evacuation of thousands of residents.”

California’s fire services reported on Monday evening that the fires covered around 73,000 acres (30,000 hectares), stretching across a 200-mile (322-km) region from north of the Bay Area, from Napa to Redding.

Cause unknown

It remains unknown what caused the fires. While wildfires aren’t uncommon in California in October, fire officials said it was unusual for so many blazes to take off at the same time. Seventeen separate fires were reported in all.

USA California wildfires (picture-alliance/AP/J. Chiu)Hundreds of homes have been destroyed as fire fighters struggle to get a hold of the wildfires ravaging parts of California.

Those flames were also fanned on Monday by powerful winds sweeping through California’s wine country. Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said that fire was burning “at explosive rates.”

The US National Weather Service issued a warning for the San Francisco area, noting that “any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly.”

Residents across the state described the battle to make it out of the fire and smoke. Mike Turpen, 38, said he was at a bar in the historic Sonoma County town of Glen Ellen early on Monday when a stranger in a smoke mask ran in telling everyone to evacuate.

Turpen said “it was like Armageddon was on,” as he raced home in his car. “Every branch of every tree was on fire.” Staying behind to protect his rental home, he said he awoke to find himself the last man on an abandoned and scorched street that was once full of houses and yards.

Jesus Torres told US broadcaster CBS that he and his family “could see the sky was getting red: we did not know it was fire until the last second because there was just smoke everywhere.” He added that his family hardly had any time to grab their valuables before abandoning their home.

Watch video01:46

Wildfires tear through California

rs, dm/bk (AP, AFP)



  • Courtesy: DW

California wine country wildfires turn deadly, force evacuations

Several raging wind-whipped fires forced evacuations Monday in California’s famed wine country, as Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency and officials estimated at least 1,500 homes and commercial buildings were destroyed.

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California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott said an estimated 20,000 people have been evacuated as 14 large fires burn. The fires are burning throughout an eight-county swath of Northern California, including Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.

At least one person has died, and two others are suffering serious burns from the wildfires north of San Francisco. Other fatalities are expected, according to Pimlott, but damaged areas are difficult to assess as the fires continue to burn.

More than 100 people were treated for burns and smoke inhalation from the raging fires, the San Francisco Chronical reported.

The remains of a car sits near the Fountaingrove Inn Hotel as it burns at rear in Santa Rosa, Calif., Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The remains of a car sits near the Fountaingrove Inn Hotel as it burns at rear in Santa Rosa, Calif., Monday, Oct. 9, 2017.  (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

“Right now with these conditions we can’t get ahead of this fire and do anything about the forward progress,” Biermann said at a news conference.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered for multiple locations in counties north of San Francisco, KTVU reported.

A spokesperson for Pacific Gas and Electric told the Associated Press that 114,000 customers were without power.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said there were multiple fires reported around the county, including a “very large fire” that jumped a freeway and spread into the east side of Santa Rosa.

“It was an inferno like you’ve never seen before”

– Kenwood, California resident Marian Williams

Multiple fires broke out Sunday night as strong winds buffeted the area. Emergency lines were inundated with callers reporting smoke in the area, prompting officials to ask that the public “only use 911 if they see actual unattended flames, or are having another emergency.”

Officials in Sonoma County said all Santa Rosa City schools will be closed Monday due to the fires.

Flames from a wildfire consume a home Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, east of Napa, Calif. Wildfires whipped by powerful winds swept through Northern California early Monday, sending residents on a headlong flight to safety through smoke and flames as homes burned. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Flames from a wildfire consume a home Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, east of Napa, Calif. Wildfires whipped by powerful winds swept through Northern California early Monday, sending residents on a headlong flight to safety through smoke and flames as homes burned.  (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The Tubbs Fire between Santa Rosa and Calistoga alone grew from 200 acres to 20,000 acres by Monday morning, CalFire Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox told KTVU.

“This fire is explosive,” he said, adding that hundreds, if not thousands of structures were impacted.

Cox said he heard of some people injured while trying to evacuate, but could not be specific.

“We’re still saving lives at the moment,” he said. “This fire has gotten explosive due to the wind.”

In Santa Rosa, Ron Dodds, who told KTVU he was helping his uncle evacuate said people were running red lights, and “there is chaos ensuing.”

Flames from a wildfire consume a a three car garage at a home Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, east of Napa, Calif. Wildfires whipped by powerful winds swept through Northern California early Monday, sending residents on a headlong flight to safety through smoke and flames as homes burned. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Flames from a wildfire consume a a three car garage at a home Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, east of Napa, Calif.  (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

“It’s a scary time,” Dodds said. “It looks like Armageddon.”

Patients from Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health hospitals on were evacuated early Monday from Santa Rosa and taken to other nearby hospitals or make-shift hospitals, according to KTVU.

In neighboring Napa County, officials were battling a 200 acre fire south of Lake Berryessa, located about 65 miles west of Sacramento.

Fire officials said the Atlas Fire broke out at 9:50 p.m. local time and was zero percent contained.

Cal Fire Deputy Chief Scott McLean called the conditions “very volatile.”

“People need to be careful,” McLean said.

Belia Ramos, chairwoman of the Napa County Board of Supervisors, said officials did not yet have a count on how many properties were affected, either by the fire directly or by evacuations.

“We’re focusing on making evacuations and trying to keep people safe. We are not prepared to start counting. Certainly with day just breaking now, we are starting to see the structures that are affected,” she said shortly after sunrise.

“The gusts are very, very — they’re tremendous and it’s what makes this fire unpredictable. It’s something that we’re having to be very cautious about,” she said.

Downed trees were blocking parts of one rural road and fires were burning on both sides of Highway 12 as gusts reached up to 60 mph.

“The winds picked up to 40-plus miles per hour probably, very windy, and it changed direction and it headed straight down the valley floor,” Napa resident and Ranch Markets owner Arik Housley told “FOX & Friends.”

The fires were also nearly some wineries in the famed Napa Valley. It was not immediately clear if the Francis Ford Coppola Winery was affected by the ferocious blaze, but some  wineries on Silverado Trail had some damage.

Windsor Fire Chief Jack Piccinini told the Associated Press that nearly every one of Sonoma County’s fire resources is being used, but it is not enough.

The sun rises as flames from a wildfire burn Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, east of Napa, Calif. The fire is one of several burning across Northern California's wine country. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The sun rises as flames from a wildfire burn Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, east of Napa, Calif. The fire is one of several burning across Northern California’s wine country.  (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

“Everyone in Sonoma County is spread out fighting these fires, but they don’t have enough resources to handle something like this. The only thing we can do is hope the wind will come down,” he said.

Community centers, the Sonoma County Fairgrounds and other local centers have been opened for evacuees.

“It was an inferno like you’ve never seen before,” said Marian Williams, who caravanned with neighbors through flames before dawn as one of the wildfires reached the vineyards and ridges at her small Sonoma County town of Kenwood.

Williams told the AP she could feel the heat of her fire through the car as she fled.

“Trees were on fire like torches,” she said.

Fires also burned in Yuba, Butte and Nevada counties — all north of the state capital. Cal Fire tweeted that as many as 8,000 homes were threatened in Nevada County, which lies on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada.

The National Weather Service issued a warning of dangerous conditions that could lead to rapidly spreading wildfires, which goes until early Tuesday. The fires created thick smoke in San Francisco, 60 miles south of the Sonoma County fire.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Courtesy: Fox News

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