A new report from the Los Angeles Times gives a harrowing account of nursing home staff members improvising and fighting to get residents to safety in the middle of California’s deadliest wildfire ever.
Unlike for providers during some recent hurricanes, sheltering in place at the Cypress Meadows Post-Acute Center in Paradise, CA, was not an option. It would have meant certain death for the 30 staff members and 90-plus residents.
Facility staff executed a systemic and efficient emergency evacuation plan to transport those residents to safety. Staff members arranged placements for the residents, and ambulances were able to pick some up. But as the fire grew near, staff members had to load residents into their own cars and flee, flames lapping at both sides of their vehicles along the way.
“My side [of the car] was hot,” recounted Sheila Craft, director of admissions and marketing at Cypress Meadows. “There was fire right there. I was sick to my stomach. I’ve never been so scared. I was telling my husband goodbye. He was with my kids. He kept saying, ‘No, no, no.’ He was praying an angel to come to me, somebody who would help me, get us out of here.”
While the nursing home, as well as two others, burned to the ground, its residents are safe, with all but four spread among 15 different area nursing homes or hospitals.
Provider leaders celebrated the life-saving work on social media Monday. They praised it and drew comparisons to less flattering accounts that appeared in mainstream media in the past after other natural disasters have ravaged facilities.
The death toll from the fire has now reached 77, with nearly 1,000 people still missing.