One California Doctor’s Dangerous Mission to Save His Newborn Patients From Fire

Dr. Scott Witt from Santa Rosa rode his motorcycle around flames and traffic to help save his newborn patients.

By Nancy Flory Published on October 19, 2017

“I wouldn’t say it was the scariest thing I did in my life but close to it,” said Neonatal Intensive Care Unit doctor Scott Witt. A 2:00 a.m. call from a colleague at Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital in Santa Rosa, California informed him that the fires were close and they needed to evacuate newborn babies.

Within minutes, the NICU director was driving toward the hospital. He ran into a snag, however, when the Tubbs Fire crossed the freeway and made it impassible, causing a traffic backup. He drove home for his motorcycle, knowing it would be easier to maneuver through traffic. When he arrived back home, officials were announcing evacuations for the residents in his neighborhood. He asked his family to leave, then drove his motorcycle toward the hospital.

When he arrived at the hospital, flames were approaching the building. “In this case,” he said, “no place was safe.”

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After preparing the eight babies for ambulance transport to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Witt decided to follow behind on his motorcycle. “On a motorcycle, you’re pretty versatile,” he said. “I wasn’t really thinking of the danger because I was just thinking about what the babies would need. I know each baby personally, I know what they need and I wanted to pass that on to their new doctors.”

All arrived safely at the new hospital. It wasn’t until after the fact that he realized the danger he’d put himself in. “It didn’t seem scary at the time. It seemed like the fire was far enough away. But later, looking back, it seems a little dangerous.”

He reunited with his family at their church where they sheltered. About noon the next day the Witt family found out their neighborhood was destroyed. “We lost everything,” said Witt. “But we’ll be OK. We have insurance, and we intend to rebuild. And the support from the community has been amazing.”

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