News Headlines Article

Hospitals Aren’t Ready for a Mass Casualty Wildfire

Of all the wildfires that ravaged California in 2018, the Camp Fire was the deadliest. It tore through the mountain town of Paradise and killed at least 85 people, destroying the local Feather River Hospital along the way—so just as emergency services were trying to evacuate and tend to the injured, they also had to transport admitted patients.

That moment made real a problem that specialists had been warning about for years. “There were four beds immediately available in the entirety of Northern California for a burn patient. Everyone else was going to have to wing it,” says Tina Palmieri, director of the Firefighters Burn Center at UC Davis, which would receive 10 burn victims from the Camp Fire alone. (Triage and emergency planning allowed for a kind of rejiggering that can add a few beds.) Technically, those four slots in the hospital—attended by teams trained to triage and treat burns—were among just 53 available in all of California.