PARADISE (CBS13) — As the fast-moving Camp Fire ripped through neighborhoods in Butte County destroying everything in its path, only a small number of burn victims made it out alive.
Twelve of those victims who suffered burns remain hospitalized at the UC Davis Health System Regional Burn Center in Sacramento.
“Half of his face was burned, the left side of his face, his ears, nose… his hands,” said Maria Rios.
Maria sat with her father in his hospital room. He was captured on camera smiling despite the horror he’s lived through. She says her father does not know that the search for his wife is officially over.
“I haven’t told him. He knew that she was in there, but he didn’t know we recovered her remains, yet; and that she’s at the mortuary. I let him smile,” said Rios.
Rios says as the Camp Fire tore through Paradise, her step mom grabbed the animals and went down to the basement of their family home. Her father stayed outside to protect.
“He saw the fire coming over the treetops, it started coming down, moving super fast…he hopped up on the roof and tried to put out what he could,” she said.
But the fire moved so fast and was so hot and intense that 69-year old Rick Rios couldn’t save his home or his wife. Miraculously someone saw him on the roof and called for help.
“When is a good time to tell somebody that their mate of 36 years is not gonna be there anywhere?” said Maria.
Rick Rios was one of the 12 burn victims airlifted to the Uc Davis Regional Burn Center and Shriners Hospital for children.
“He’s doing quite well. He got skin grafts and his face burns are gonna heal up just fine. He’s gonna have a long emotional recovery. People forget the physical recovery is one thing, but the psychological takes a long time,” said Chief Burn surgeon Dr. David Greenhalgh.
Dr. Greenhalgh says most of the victims they saw suffered burns that covered 20-50% of their body. And the reason there aren’t more burn victims from the Camp Fire is that many others did not survive the severe fire.
“They were the lucky ones to escape but it was such a severe and hot fire, that the others did not survive unfortunately,” said Greenhalgh.
Dozens did not make it out alive and the grim search for the nearly 900 missing continues. Meanwhile, Maria is staying strong for her father, with a heavy heart, missing her step-mom.
“I’m extremely grateful that it wasn’t both of them. That it could have been both of them,” she said.
With a team of four burn surgeons, one plastic surgeon and a high number of nurses and staff, the regional burn center has become such a resource for the Sacramento area communities and beyond. They serve patients as far south as Oakland and far north as the Oregon border and Reno.
Dr. Greenhalgh says the physical recovery could take up to a year. One of the burn victims is a firefighter, he too is expected to survive.