By Jennifer McGraw

BUTTE COUNTY (CBS13) — A Paradise nurse narrowly escaped the Camp Fire with her life as she worked to help evacuate the town hospital last week.

“It just came through so quickly,” said Karen Davis.

Davis was working as a nurse at the Feather River Hospital when the unimaginable happened.

“We got a code saying, ‘get your patients out,'” she said.

The hospital was sitting in the direct path of the fast-moving wildfire.

“I think there were 67 patients that we put in ambulances, private cars, and police cars,” she said.

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Davis was told it was time to go, but on the way out of town, she was stopped by the flames and her truck stalled.

“Fire was coming up on both sides. There was a fire tornado in that canyon,” she said.

As she tried to escape, Davis called her daughter Wendy who remained on the line.

“She goes, ‘Oh no, it’s starting to get so hot and I can’t see anything,” Wendy Sadler recalled. “Then you hear things falling on the car and loud and crackling.”

Davis said she was on Pentz Road trying to head south.

“Then all of a sudden my cab filled up with black smoke,” Davis remembered. “It made me realize how close I was to losing my life that day.”

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Sadler was worried the conversation could be their last.

“After her saying, ‘It’s getting really hot and I can’t breathe,’ I said, ‘Listen, you are not going to sit there and die,'” she said.

Trapped by flames, she hitched a ride back to the hospital where new patients were arriving as they set up triage there on the helipad.

“Forty or 50 people showed up when their houses burnt because there was nowhere else to go,” Davis said.

With fire all around them, those left at the hospital piled into cars and drove through the fire to safety.

Davis survived but is uncertain about the status of her home on Pearson, just blocks away from Edgewood Lane where multiple people were killed.

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“I’m positive it’s gone because there’s nothing standing in that area,” she said.

This is now a tragedy that will forever be a part of her.

“My panic is the flames coming in and the lack of air,” Davis said.

She lost everything, but her life and dear friends.

“Even though we went through a tragic time, I think it’s brought … the community together closer too,” she said.

Davis said luckily she has insurance and the hospital is paying its employees their full salary for the upcoming months.

Jennifer McGraw


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