In a touching display of community support, more than 100 people welcomed now-retired Crescent City Fire and Rescue Chief Steve Wakefield home from the hospital as he landed at Border Coast Regional Airport Friday afternoon.
Wakefield suffered a stroke Jan. 24 that resulted in his transfer to Pacific Medical Care’s Stroke Care Center in San Francisco, before a second, more severe stroke hit him on Feb. 11. He has been in Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford since.
Interim City Manager Eric Wier said the idea for the welcoming ceremony originated at the fire department and quickly spread through the community.
The welcoming crowd consisted mostly of firefighters from around the county, along with city and county law enforcement, the California Highway Patrol and other city and county departments.
The pilot of the Cal Ore Life Flight air ambulance made a pass over the welcome area, which was lined with fire, city police, sheriff’s office nd CHP patrol vehicles, all with their emergency lights flashing.
After landing, Debra Wakefield was first to exit the plane as the words “fire mom” ran through the waiting crowd.
To a wave of applause, Steve Wakefield was transferred from the plane to a gurney.
Once clear of the plane, a line formed and people individually welcomed Steve home and wished him well in his recovery. Meanwhile, Debra could only get a few steps in between each person who greeted and hugged her.
After about 20 minutes, Debra said, “OK, we need to get going to the hospital.”
The crowd again waved and cheered as Steve raised his right arm to wave as he was transferred into a ground ambulance for transport.
“Steve will be moving into the Sutter Acute Rehab Inpatient Center,” Debra wrote recently in an online update. She said the number of visitors will be limited for a while, to allow him time to heal.
“He is beginning the next step in his recovery. Still very sick, still a long way to go,” she said.
Reach Tony Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org