Current News



Many of the dead in Camp fire were disabled. Could they have been saved?

Tony Bizjak, Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks, Phillip Reese and Molly Sullivan, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in News & Features

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sixty-three-year-old Ernest Foss had swollen legs and couldn't walk. Vinnie Carota, 65, was missing a leg and didn't have a car. Evelyn Cline, 83, had a car but struggled to get in it without help.

Dorothy Herrera, 93, had onset dementia and her husband Louis, 86, couldn't drive anymore. And 78-year-old John Digby was just feeling sick the morning of the Camp fire when he refused a neighbor's offer to drive him to safety.

An unsettling picture is emerging in the fire-charred hills of Butte County: Many of the at least 85 people who perished in the raging Camp fire on Nov. 8 were elderly, infirm or disabled.

They may not have had the physical strength, presence of mind, or perhaps the desire to save themselves -- even as tens of thousands of their neighbors in Paradise and other hill towns fled as flames destroyed the world around them.

Some may have been unaware the inferno was headed their way. Others may have hunkered down, hoping the fire would spare them.

Advocates for society's vulnerable say the emerging portrait of death in Butte County's Camp fire is not a surprise.

Sponsored Video Stories from LifeZette

"Over and over again, it is mostly people with disabilities and aged, they are the ones being left behind," said Christina Mills, executive director with the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers. They are the people more likely to use walkers and wheelchairs than cell phones and cars.

Could they have been saved? Will California be better prepared to help its vulnerable residents when the next fire hits?

The questions are urgent. California is dealing with killer wildfires unseen in past years as well as extended fire seasons that stretch into late fall. The next fire season is just seven months away.

In the last two years, four of those wildfires have stormed into hillside cities in their first hours, taking scores of lives. Last year it was Santa Rosa, this year Redding, Paradise and Malibu.


swipe to next page


blog comments powered by Disqus

Social Connections


Pearls Before Swine Bob Gorrell Michael Ramirez 9 Chickweed Lane The Barn Heathcliff