SAN FRANCISCO (Tara Moriarty/KTVU) - A Santa Rosa doctor's dangerous mission to save newborn babies from the deadly Tubbs Fire paid off on October 8th.
As flames closed in on his hospital, Doctor Scott Witt knew he had to rescue eight premature babies under his care, but he was miles away at home.
The director of Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital's neonatal ICU, never thought he'd pull off a harrowing rescue to save babies.
"I got a call at 2 a.m. basically saying that there was some fire encroaching on the hospital so so we might have to evacuate," said Dr. Witt, who told his family to leave their Fountaingrove home, while he made his way toward the hospital on Mark West Springs Road and Old Redwood Highway.
"I left in my truck but couldn't get very far because the freeway at that time had flames going across it," said Dr. Witt, who also found himself stuck in traffic.
So the 45-year-old did what any unassuming physician in charge of evacuating eight preemies might do... he went back home and swapped out his truck for his BMW, motorcycle that is.
"In California, you can split lanes so I just kind of went down the middle of lanes and got past everybody," said Dr. Witt.
For four miles he braved strong winds and flying burning debris, weaving through traffic, rode on the shoulder and slid through gravel. When he finally arrived at the hospital, he and his medical team prepared the NICU's babies, loading them into ambulances for transport to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital six miles away. It took three hours to make several trips.
"Incredible amazing, makes me proud they were worried about their own family and yet they stayed here," said Tina Lubas, Neonatal ICU Patient Care Manager.
Dr. Witt's mission wasn't over. He then rode to Santa Rosa Memorial, tailing an ambulance closely. "There were downed power lines that were live that we rolled over," said Dr. Witt, recalling the most harrowing moments of his journey that night but he said he felt the babies needed him.
"If my baby was in the hospital... I mean I'm a little biased but I would totally want them to be in some hands like Scott's," said Megan Witt, Scott's wife.
The family's home is a complete loss, but they said they are thankful to still have each other.
And things are just now getting back to normal at the hospital where Dr. Witt is now being called the James Dean of neonatal.
"That's not really my personality," he laughs off. "You just gotta get done what has to be done."