Family members hope Jon Shepherd will soon be strong enough to join his wife, Sara, at the UC Davis burn center in Sacramento.
Until he is, the Shepherds are traveling the long path to recovery singly, with the support of loved ones who have kept close watch in the six weeks since catastrophe struck.
The Mendocino County couple was severely injured in the devastating Redwood fire, part of the October fire siege that took the lives of 43 people across Northern California.
The Shepherds’ teenage children, Kai, 14, and Kressa, 17, were among the victims. Kai died on the night of the fire and Kressa succumbed to her injuries after three weeks of hospitalization.
Jon Shepherd, 44, has made strides toward recovery at the Bothin Burn Center at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco, his wife’s sister, Mindi Ramos, said Friday. He’s starting to walk with assistance and to feed himself despite burns over nearly half of his body, she said.
He need only hit a few more milestones before he can be moved from intensive care and transferred to the UC Davis center in Sacramento, to be with Sara, 40, Ramos said.
She believes only then will the couple be able to confront the depth of their loss. Though Jon Shepherd has acknowledged the deaths of his son and daughter, “he’s saving a lot of that conversation for Sara,” Ramos said.
The Shepherds are among more than a dozen people who suffered burns in the desperate early hours of North Bay wildfires that moved with terrific speed and fury, sweeping through whole neighborhoods and engulfing homes as terrified residents tried to outrun the flames. Like the Shepherds, some of those burned in the fires suffered the awful toll of also losing loved ones who did not survive.
No comprehensive accounting of the injured has been available, given the scale of the disaster and related chaos. Two of Santa Rosa’s three hospitals were evacuated as flames invaded the city, and patients were moved by all modes of transportation, from ambulance to private car.
At least 14 people with burn injuries turned up in the first 24 hours or so at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital in need of inpatient treatment, St. Joseph Health spokeswoman Vanessa DeGier said. Eight were treated locally and eventually released, but six had injuries significant enough to require specialized treatment at regional burn centers like Bothin, UC Davis and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose.
Among four North Bay fire victims treated at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, none remain in care there, spokeswoman Joy Alexio said.
At least one, Helen Hung, 76, who was badly burned after fleeing her home in Fountaingrove, was discharged from Valley Medical Center into the care of another facility, a common circumstance, Alexio said. Hung’s husband, Tak-Fu Hung, 101, was the last of the reported 23 Sonoma County fire fatalities to be identified by coroner’s officials this week.
As many as three fire victims remain at UC Davis, where Sara Shepherd is being treated, a spokeswoman said earlier this week.
Three remain in the care of Bothin Burn Center, personnel there said.
Among them, Michael Hanson of Santa Rosa, has had a difficult week, his niece, Brittney Vinculado, said by email. Hanson’s daughter, Christina, 27, who used a wheelchair and lived in an apartment next to her father’s Larkfield-Wikiup home, died in the Tubbs fire.