Walnut Creek nurse shares experience helping Camp Fire victims

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Search teams are still navigating through rugged terrain looking for people missing in the Camp Fire, as firefighters get closer to fully containing the deadliest wildfire in California history. 

Some volunteers who went up north to help Camp Fire victims in Butte County are returning home. 

KRON4’s Philippe Djegal met with a nurse in Walnut Creek who shared her experience in the burn zone. 

In the past year, Tammi Bechecki has traveled to Puerto Rico, volunteering her services as a nurse to victims of Hurricane Maria. 

Last month, she was in Florida helping those devastated by Hurricane Michael and for the past week, she’s been stateside in Butte County supporting families in Chico who lost everything in the Camp Fire. 

“A lot of what we were seeing, you know, from the medical standpoint, were patients with asthma, that have, or COPD, that were having exacerbations from the smoke due to the air,” Bechecki said. “Air quality in the Bay Area was horrible, but in Chico, it was so, so thick, um, you could barely see the sun.”

Although Bechecki makes her living as a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at Kaiser Permanente’s Walnut Creek medical center, she said her experience in Butte County will stick with her forever. 

“A lot of tears, a lot of hugs, um, and then you know, a lot of smiling through the tears as well,” she said. “A lot of the people in the shelter knew they were in a dire situation and were trying to make the best of it.”

Bechecki drove up to Chico a week ago as part of a team of 11 nurses and one nurse practitioners representing National Nurses United’s Registered Nurse Response Network. 

She returned to the Bay Area Thursday night. 

“A couple of the nurses have actually gone back up to continue to help,” she said. 

Bechecki wishes these natural disasters were less frequent. 

“All of these hurricanes and fires and flooding, is you know, that just shows us global warming is happening and we need to do something about it because people are dying,” she explained. 

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