The First Hours
As the worst wildfire in California history raged around them, Sutter care teams throughout Northern California kept their focus on serving patients and supporting their evacuated neighbors.
Saving the Hospital
With fire extinguishers and garden hoses, a small team at Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital protected the care center until firefighters arrived.
'How Can We Help?'
From evacuating patients to comforting people who’d fled burning homes, three Sutter nurses describe their roles the night the fires began.
The First Hours: Voices from the Sutter Network
What does it take to safely evacuate a hospital, including more than 100 people seeking refuge from the fires? Hear from those who sprang into action.
Forest Neel-Grant, certified nursing assistant, Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital
On road conditions approaching the hospital: “The frontage road was burned. To the north were flames, and to the west were flames. Sutter was a beacon.”
Devin Cornwell, IS client services manager, Novato Community Hospital and Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital
“It was around 2 a.m. when I received notification from Santa Rosa that the wildfires had descended on the hospital. The message was short and devastating: we were evacuating the entire hospital. At around 3 a.m., I received the first call from Novato Community Hospital that we were preparing to accept as many patients as we could cram into our 47-bed hospital. Novato desktop team technician Chris Jensen had already received a high-priority ticket from Sutter Santa Rosa and attempted to drive there, but was turned away by the highway patrol. He was the first to arrive at Novato that morning, and I followed shortly.”
Shaun Ralston, marketing and communications regional manager, Sutter Health
“I got a call about 3:45 a.m. and then a knock on the door. It was the police saying, ‘You have three minutes to get out.’ I left my passport and driver’s license, but grabbed my laptop. I knew I was going to the hospital command center. When I got here, I was amazed to see how calm it was. Everyone was following protocol. A few of our people’s homes were burning, but they came in to work.”
Julie Petrini, CEO of Hospitals, Sutter Health Bay Area
“The hospital staff was truly amazing. They all have families and homes (in the fire zone) but had to put that in the back of their minds. None of them knew the status of their homes. They focused on getting patients moved and safely getting out the community people sheltering there. There was a board and care home whose residents had evacuated to the hospital. We got all the patients and the community moved.”
Teri Spooner, patient care manager, Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital
“I never once saw the staff waver. They never panicked. They didn’t look stressed. At one point, somebody went online and pulled up information on the fire, and one of the nurses very casually said, ‘I wonder if I’m going to have a home to go to.’
“This is what they do every day, whether there’s a fire or if there’s a baby not breathing or there’s a mom who’s bleeding or there’s something going on with a Med-Surg patient. This is what they do. And they do it extremely well.”
Kelsey Claybrook, security supervisor, Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital
On fighting the fires that threatened the hospital: “All night I said, ‘Not this building.’ We were here with this team, and nothing’s going to separate us. Nothing. If my back is against the wall, there are no better people to be around.”
Robin Allen, chief nursing executive, Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital
“I went on automatic and didn’t really think about how serious the situation was. It wasn’t until a couple of days later that it really hit me—how close we had come to devastation. But during the evacuation, we just tried to remain focused and calm and worked toward getting all our patients out safely.”
Mike Purvis, CEO, Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital
“I’m always so proud to see how the staff puts the patients’ needs and the patients’ issues first. They’re willing to sacrifice their own personal situation to make that happen. I want to say thank you to that team and let them know how honored I am, how privileged and really blessed I am to be working with them.”
Patricia LaVine, hospice administrator, Sutter Care at Home
“In the first hours of the fire, we figured out which Sutter Care at Home employees and patients were in which areas of the fire zone. Fire prevented us from reaching each other, so we set up a system to make sure we could take care of everybody, our patients and our employees. As the fire lines changed and the evacuations changed, the safety of our patients and employees changed, and we continually monitored that.”