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Paradise lost: Nurses evacuate patients from hospital through wildfire’s flames

By Michael Boardman, CEO, Readiness Associates

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Nurses from Adventist Health Feather River Medical Center in Paradise, California, saved patients’ lives Nov. 8 as flames from the Camp Fire wildfire engulfed trees in the hospital’s parking lot.

According to NBC News, surgical nurse Nichole Jolly made what she thought would be her last call to her husband as she rushed patients to safety in her car.

‘I think I’m going to die’

"I said, 'I think I'm going to die. Tell the kids I love them. I'm not gonna make it home,'" Jolly later told NBC News.

"We packed them in every vehicle possible," Karen Davis, another surgical nurse, told NBC News. "Newborn babies and there's a lot of elderly in our community. One of the doctors that eventually escaped had to finish a surgery and get that patient out, too."

The NBC News report told of Jolly’s and Davis’s terrifying escape from the fire. Both lost their vehicles and homes to the fire.

Devastating losses

Nurses successfully moved all of their patients without loss of life or injury, but the Camp Fire has taken its toll: As we posted this, 77 people were reported dead, about 1,000 more were missing, 11,000-plus structures had been destroyed, and approximately 150,000 acres had burned. The Camp Fire is now the worst wildfire in California history.

Hospital damaged

“The fire around Adventist Health Feather River rapidly grew on Thursday, November 8, and prompted immediate evacuation from the hospital and clinics,” Adventist posted on its Facebook page. “Our team responded with professionalism and bravery that has made national headlines – risking their own lives to safely evacuate more than 60 inpatients in less than 40 minutes, rushing them to safety and standing with them until help arrived.

“Paradise and (nearby) Magalia have been changed forever. While we do know there has been fire destruction to our medical center property, we are most grateful that God protected our team and our patients. We are thankful that all who were on duty eventually found their way to safety.”

Fire a deadly reminder

The deadly California wildfire serves as the latest reminder of why the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2017 implemented the CMS Emergency Preparedness Rule, requiring that 17 types of healthcare organizations get ready for natural and man-made disasters. The emergency preparedness/response professionals at Readiness Associates can help healthcare organizations comply with the new rule.