Family of 4 Runs For Their Lives From California Wildfire, Only Two Survive

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A California family desperately tried to outrun a wildfire bearing down on their mountain home, but only the parents remain alive. 

Gone are 14-year-old Kai Shepherd, who burned to death in the family’s driveway, and his sister, 17-year-old, Kressa, who was pronounced brain dead Sunday night at a Sacramento hospital, where she’d already had both legs amputated below the knee because her muscles had been eaten by flames.

“We are utterly devastated,” wrote relative Mindi Ramos on a Generosity page established to help survivors Jon and Sara Shepherd. “The home they built is gone. The life they knew is gone.” 

Jon, 44, is hospitalized with burns over 45 percent of his body at St. Francis Memorial Hospital’s burn unit in San Francisco. Sara, who has burns over 60 percent of her body, is being treated at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.

The parents have not been told their children are dead, wrote Ramos, who is Sara’s sister. Doctors have advised family members to not volunteer information about Kai and Kressa, saying the adults need time to physically heal and build their strength.

Read: Firefighter Rescues Dog From Los Angeles River

Neither is able to talk above slight whispers because of lung damage.

They bolted from their rural home on Oct. 9, as a fast-moving fire devoured a stretch of Redwood Valley in Northern California. As flames lapped the house Jon Shepherd built himself, the family jumped in their car, but didn’t get far before the vehicle was engulfed.

Jon ran toward the main road, where he was later found burned, but breathing. Kai died outside the car. Sara and Kressa were saved by a neighbor who found them on the ground about 5:30 a.m. Monday, severely burned.

The three were transported to different hospitals. A firefighter covered Kai’s body so his mother and sister couldn’t see it as they were carried out, according to the Los Angeles Times.

After several surgeries, Kressa seemed to be making some small gains, but suffered cardiac arrest on Oct. 18 and didn’t show movement or lucidity after that. Doctors checking her burns noticed she didn’t express signs of pain. A CAT scan showed no brain activity, Ramos wrote on the fundraising site. 

Read: How to Protect Your Home Against Wildfires

The teenager was taken off life support.

“We have lost Kressa Jean,” her aunt wrote Sunday. “Today, during a dressing change, it was noticed that she was in no pain, which is very unusual. They did a CT scan and it showed her brain had been dead for some time. There was nothing the doctors could do. 

“She is no longer in any pain and is with Kai now. Please continue to pray for strength to get through the loss of this precious soul.”

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