Thousands of homes have been destroyed and dozens of lives lost in the wildfires of Santa Rosa, California. Thankfully, heroes like Dr. Scott Witt have the courage to risk their safety and help those in need.
In an incredible story from the San Francisco Chronicle and an appearance on SFGate, we learned that Dr. Witt, who is the director of Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital’s neonatal ICU, got a call late at night, telling him that his help was needed to evacuate the babies from the unit because of the steadily approaching Tubbs Fire.
Finding his way blocked by traffic and fire, Witt turned his truck around and went home to fetch his motorcycle, a 2015 BMW R NineT. After making sure that his family evacuated their home safely, he headed back toward the hospital.
He said, “I got to where the fire was and started skirting around it. It wasn’t all that harrowing, it just involved darting around traffic, riding on the shoulder, sliding in the gravel. The police, when I explained, let me go through.”
The fire was getting close to the hospital when he got there. Together, with another doctor and some nurses, they moved the babies to another hospital six miles away via ambulances. It took over three hours. And what happened next sounds truly scary:
As the last two babies were loaded into an ambulance, Witt realized the only way he could make it to Memorial Hospital was on his motorcycle.
“At that point, the fire had come close enough that I knew the only way I could get there was to follow the ambulance on the freeway,” he said. “I figured it would be OK if I followed the ambulance and got some draft.”
The ambulance, with Witt on his motorcycle close behind, sped onto Highway 101, which was closed to all but emergency vehicles. The smoke from the fires was so dense, Witt had to rely on the ambulance’s lights to guide him. Flames licked at the side of the freeway and embers whipped through the air and across the pavement. Fallen power lines and branches were scattered across the roadway.
Witt said he simply tried to steer clear of hazards and stay focused on getting to the new hospital to take care of his young patients.
Witt and the babies were able to safely get to the other hospital.
Not long after, Witt and his family found out that their house and neighborhood had been destroyed by the fire. “We lost everything. But we’ll be OK. We have insurance, and we intend to rebuild. And the support from the community has been amazing,” he said.
(h/t to Mark!)