Nurse Shares Terrifying Account of Evacuating Patients from Paradise

California Connection
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BUTTE COUNTY -- It all started with a "code black."

"We started calling our family members and saying goodbye," said registered nurse Darrel Wilken.

With the Camp Fire racing toward the Feather River Hospital last Thursday morning, Wilken and three of his patients jumped in his car.

"We had no other options," Wilken said. "Everybody was running for their cars. If your car wasn’t on fire you were transporting patients."

For the next few hours they drove through hell on earth, avoiding flames and fighting a traffic jam of others looking to stay alive themselves.

"'Well guys, we are together, start throwing up some prayers,'" Wilken says in a video recorded during their escape.

Two of Wilken's three patients were already in critical condition before even getting in his car. He knew regardless of the flames, time was not on their side.

So he says he looked for a different route out, but couldn’t find one. He eventually had to get back in the rows of traffic, 100 yards from where he initially was.

"A couple of hours later we made our way through that area," Wilken told FOX40. "The cars that were about 100 yards ahead of where we stopped were all on fire."

Once on Skyway Road, the main thoroughfare out of town, Wilken said the competition among drivers to escape became very apparent.

"Guardrails were gone and people were driving crazy," he said. "They were zipping back and forth without even looking."

After dropping off one of his patients, Wilken and his two remaining passengers made it to Chico alive.

In the harrowing day that looked like night, Wilken says he and his coworkers just did their jobs.

"Everybody stepped up. Nobody abandoned the patients," Wilken said. "We were there to the very, very end. That’s just what we do. It’s a calling, it’s definitely a calling."


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