9 months later, Camp Fire survivor dies due to complications from third-degree burns

ByLiz Kreutz via KGO logo
Thursday, August 8, 2019
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The deadliest fire in California history is likely responsible for the death of yet another person.

PARADISE, Calif. (KGO) -- The deadliest fire in California history is likely responsible for the death of yet another person.

Paul Ernest survived the Camp Fire last year by hovering behind a boulder near his home in Paradise as waves of flames blew over him and his wife, Suzie.

He spent the past nine months in the hospital recovering from the extensive third-degree burns he got that day.

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Recently, his fight took a turn. According to his family, Paul died on Monday due to health complications stemming from his recovery.

He was 72-years-old.

Paul's son, Jessee Ernest, said his father passed ultimately because of his lungs.

"Due to the surgeries he had contracted pneumonia and was intubated for a month," Jessee said.

After that, he had to be put on a ventilator.

His lungs eventually stopped oxygenating, Jessee explained, and doctors determined he would never be able to breathe independently again.

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Paul and Suzie, who was 67 at the time, almost didn't survive the day of the Camp Fire.

As flames engulfed their Paradise home, they had nowhere to go but behind a large boulder. Waves of fire flowed over them.

"My mom's shoes burned off," Jessee recalled. "My dad's shoes...cooked."

His father, he explained, tried to protect his mother by covering her with his body. They both got third-degree burns, but hers were slightly less extensive.

Miraculously, first responders were able to rescue the couple.

They were airlifted to UC Davis Medical Center where they remained for several months in the ICU.

VIDEO: Paradise resident drives wrong way down road to escape Camp Fire flames

Suzie was released from the hospital earlier this year while Paul continued his recovery.

According to Jessee, Paul was recently moved from UC Davis to a respiratory hospital in Folsom.

Just last week he was moved again to a long-term rehab facility in West Sacramento.

The Paradise coroner's office told ABC7 News they are currently investigating Paul's death.

The official death toll from the Camp Fire is 85, but it could now go up.

See more stories and videos about the Camp Fire and its aftermath.