California Wildfire Kills Teenager And Seriously Burns His Family09:34
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Only three members of the Shepherd family of Redwood Valley, California, were able to escape a wildfire near their home on Monday, and are now hospitalized with serious burns. The youngest Shepherd, 14-year-old Kai, died of his injuries after trying to flee. Pictured clockwise from left to right: Sara Shepherd, Kressa Shepherd, Jon Shepherd and Kai Shepherd. (Courtesy of Mindi Ramos)MoreCloseclosemore
Only three members of the Shepherd family of Redwood Valley, California, were able to escape a wildfire near their home on Monday, and are now hospitalized with serious burns. The youngest Shepherd, 14-year-old Kai, died of his injuries after trying to flee. Pictured clockwise from left to right: Sara Shepherd, Kressa Shepherd, Jon Shepherd and Kai Shepherd. (Courtesy of Mindi Ramos)

One of the youngest victims in the Northern California wildfires was 14-year-old Kai Logan Shepherd of Redwood Valley. His family is trying to survive his loss, and their own injuries. His mother, father and sister were seriously burned and have undergone multiple surgeries.

Here & Now's Robin Young speaks with the children's aunt, Mindi Ramos, who has started a fundraiser to help the Shepherds rebuild their life.

Interview Highlights

On coping with her nephew Kai's death and her family members' injuries

"It's just, it's completely devastating. It's so multifaceted it's hard to wrap one's head around."

On Kai being known as a kid who always had a smile on his face

"He had the best smile. He had these amazing dimples, and just one of those smiles that just beamed sunshine, like you couldn't help return it. When you got one of Kai's smiles, it was a special, special moment."

Fourteen-year-old Kai Logan Shepherd of Redwood Valley was one of the youngest victims of the Northern California wildfires. He was an eighth-grader at Eagle Peak Middle School. (Courtesy of Mindi Ramos)
Fourteen-year-old Kai Logan Shepherd of Redwood Valley was one of the youngest victims of the Northern California wildfires. He was an eighth-grader at Eagle Peak Middle School. (Courtesy of Mindi Ramos)

On the speed of the fire

"We thought they were leaving in plenty of time. They had been alerted by a neighbor that the fire was coming. I don't think they could see the fire even, very clearly, from their house. And so they didn't know how quickly it was moving. I mean, they did everything they could to get out of there as quickly as one would in that situation. They would never put their children in harm's way. And the fire just overtook them. I mean, their driveway is a mile-and-a-half long up a winding mountain road."

On unanswered questions

"I can't imagine what they endured, and the fact that they were lucid when they were found. I mean, what went on for those essentially four hours, we may never know exactly. And we still unfortunately ... the coroner's not had time to see Kai yet. So we don't know if it was the flames, or if it was it was the smoke — he was asthmatic. We have a lot of questions, and unfortunately, there may not be answers for some of them."

Sara Shepherd, left, with her sister, Mindi Ramos. (Courtesy of Mindi Ramos)
Sara Shepherd, left, with her sister, Mindi Ramos. (Courtesy of Mindi Ramos)

On the community response in the wake of the fire

"I mean it, the fire moved so fast, and I mean we never ... we didn't have a chance, you know? I mean people had to flee uphill instead of downhill. And it just, I mean, I can't even count the number of people I know personally that lost homes, entire homes. And I hate that it's taken this kind of tragedy, but I really feel — not just in my community but all over the world — I feel like humans are really stepping up for other humans right now. People that have lost their entire homes are still giving to our fundraiser. And I just, that kind of generosity and that kind of support takes my breath away."


Looking for other ways to help those impacted by the Northern California wildfires? Check out this list compiled by KQED for ideas, and Redwood Credit Union's North Bay Fire Relief.

This segment aired on October 19, 2017.

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