Thanksgiving ended in a trip to the hospital for one local family and several family members remain hospitalized as of Tuesday.
The Flaherty family is from Lompoc, but they spent Thanksgiving camping in the Mojave Desert with friends, including Ian Charnley.
“We use these heating devices, they’re called smudge pots, and one of them malfunctioned and erupted like hot fuel on Gretchen, her father Richard, Graham, and his son Braiden,” Charnley told KSBY.
The trip ended with multiple family members in the hospital for serious burns, including Gretchen Flaherty, a teacher at Lompoc High School.
“Richard had sweats on so they caught on fire and Gretchen jumped on them to try and put the fire out,” Charnley said.
Family friends were able to put out the fire using water and a fire extinguisher. Then, paramedics came and a helicopter flew Richard Mullins, Gretchen's father, to the Arrowhead Burn Center at San Bernardino County Hospital while the others were taken by paramedics to Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, according to Charnley.
He described the scene: “It was just like… I don’t know, like a war scene.”
He organized a GoFundMe page and continues to provide updates about the family on that page.
Charnley went on to say, “Graham and Braiden are the best off. Their burns are isolated like to their shins with Gretchen and her dad having more severe burns.”
On Tuesday, several members of the family went through surgery, according to Charnley.
Gretchen's son, Braiden, is also a student at Lompoc High School. The school principal, Celeste Pico, told KSBY that the students there are worried about the whole family.
“We had a counselor cover her [Gretchen's] class every period today to answer any questions they might have to first and foremost let them know she is going to be okay,” Pico told KSBY on Monday.
Every single one of Ms. Flaherty's classes made cards for her and her family. In the coming days, she will receive more than 200 handmade notes.
“They’re also doing their own fundraisers. They’re selling candy canes to raise money to donate to her and her family so the kids have initiated all of that on their own,” Pico added.
She said the campus community is staying optimistic and hope that Ms. Flaherty will return to her classes in January.