Fire Chief Turns Garage into Makeshift Hospital for Patients Forced To Flee Wildfires

Combined Shape

In the same day, Heather Roebuck experienced incredible highs and lows. She brought life into the world, and then shortly afterward, she stared death in the face.

Roebuck was welcoming her daughter into the world. She was in the hospital, having a cesarean section — everything should have been routine. The problem was that she was in a hospital in Paradise, California, as the Camp Fire raged outside.

Staff at the hospital soon realized the fire was headed toward them, and they needed to evacuate, ready or not. Roebuck couldn’t believe it at first when she heard the evacuation announcement.

“It was sheer terror,” Roebuck told KABC. “They just stitched me up really quickly.”

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Her husband took their new child and raced to safety, but Roebuck had to be wheeled out since she was still numb from the waist down and needed medical assistance.

Patients were taken out in ambulances and cars and rushed away from the flames. The new mother was in an ambulance, but it began to burn.

“I realized I’m not going to make it,” she said. “I told (my husband) on the phone, ‘I’m really sorry’ — that I just loved him, and that I wasn’t going to be there with the kids.”

She really thought that was it. Who wouldn’t? Even the nurse with her, Tamara Ferguson, believed their time was up. There was nowhere to run to, and even if there was, Roebuck couldn’t stand on her own two feet, let alone run.

Thankfully, someone was watching over them. People appeared to help and got them out of the ambulance before it was completely taken over by flames.

Fire Chief David Hawks led everyone to a nearby house, where they took shelter in the garage. Once they claimed the garage as their ward, everyone who could set about protecting it from the encroaching flames.

“I see the paramedic on the roof, spraying down the roof,” the nurse recalled, according to KXTV. “I see someone over here with a hose filling buckets. Chrissy is sweeping, someone with a shovel, I picked up piles of brush and cleared them to the road.”

“I watched home across the street, the house next door, watched it on fire. And I’m just standing there.”

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“I like to think of us a piece of a puzzle,” she said. “We were a piece and when we put it together we were complete. We did what we needed to do to survive.”

The patients waited out the flames, unable to help or do much besides stay put and hope the fire would pass. Roebuck said she concentrated on trying to get feeling back in her legs.

Fortunately, the fire passed and they all made it through. The house they’d taken refuge in and protected was fine, but the houses around it had burned down.

“I will forever be changed by yesterday, as so many thousands of others are, but not by what was physically lost, but the reminder that life changes quickly,” Ferguson posted on Facebook.

“Today and everyday i urge you to live with no regrets, do what makes you happy, make sure your loved ones know how much you love them and how much they mean to you and NEVER take one second for granted.”

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Combined Shape
Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking