The death toll now stands at 40 in the wildfires that have been raging in California for more than a week. One of the many tragic stories to emerge from the catastrophe is that of 14-year-old Kai Shepherd, who became separated from his family and burned to death as they fled a fire in Mendocino County early last Monday, People reports. After their cars caught fire as they tried to drive to safety, parents Jon and Sara Shepherd and 17-year-old daughter Kressa became separated from Kai as they fled on foot. All four were quickly overcome by smoke and collapsed. Hours later, a neighbor found Sara and Kressa badly injured and called 911, but Kai was beyond saving, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Kai's body was found around 50 feet away from his mother and sister, who tried to run toward their home and were burned over more than 60% of their bodies. His father, who ran the other way, was burned over around 45% of his body. All three surviving family members are still hospitalized and sedated. Relatives say they haven't yet told them the terrible news about Kai, the youngest fire victim identified so far. Across the state, 11,000 firefighters are still battling 15 fires, but authorities say fire crews may have "turned a corner now that winds have died down, the AP reports. "A week ago this started as a nightmare, and the day we dreamed of has arrived," Napa County Supervisor Belia Ramos says. (This family lost their home but were overjoyed to discover that their dog had somehow survived.)