Steve Bustillos Transcript

Chris Rosero Transcript

The following is Steve Bustillos’s podcast transcript.

“Everything just kinda calmed down a little bit, I see everybody kinda driving out I got in my truck and I drove out towards the front gates. And then, that’s when the rest of it happened. So...but this is...I should’ve just stayed here. Right here. I think I would’ve been okay.

My name is Steven Bustillos, I am a retired, San Jose police sergeant. And we are in Redding, California. Well initially, you know, they reported the fire on the news and I thought well, no big deal it's just the typical fire. We get tons of fires up here in Northern California so when you see them you’re like, okay, that’s not a big deal. Um, the air buses are going to come down and drop the retardant or, you know, they’re going to take care of it right away.

So, my neighbors and I are kind of watching and you can see the plum of the smoke coming from over a couple ridges and I was standing across the street in between two homes of my neighbors and we were kind of look down to the Sac River and you can see, at that time, it was a wall of black smoke and fire. So we watched and we were thinking okay, it’s going to get to the river and that’s going to be it. It was like a Disney character, like tip-toeing across the river and then the next thing you know that fires just, you could just see it manifesting itself and coming up the hillside. So we kind of looked at one another and um, said, ‘hey it’s time to go.’

So, at that time I left across the street and I went next door cause I had a neighbor here that was ready to go and I wanted to make sure she got out we’d gotten her all ready to go. And, I had my truck already loaded, sitting in the driveway, and I’m over there waiting for her to drive past. She had a hard time getting out. So, got her out, came back over to my truck and as I’m walking back down my driveway, the air from back behind my house is rushing forward and I’m thinking ‘Uh that’s kind of weird.’

And it wasn’t much after that everything on the back side of the houses across the street just ignited. It just went ‘BOOM.’ At 8:03 I call my wife Carrie and I’m like ‘Hey I got everything in the truck, we’re good to go, we can live out of a tent, I don’t think the house is going to be there when we get back, I’m on my way out and I should be down safe in a little bit.’ So we’re talking on the phone. And I went out the gates and I made a left on Sutra Mine  and then at the corner there there’s a bunch of fire trucks.

And then I was driving along, still talking to my wife at this time and then I look up to the left and I go ‘oh shit, oh shit.’ And next thing I know, it’s just like out of the movie ‘Twister,’ where stuff is flying around and branches, and rocks and everything like that. Coals, ambers, you can see the red. I mean, it’s just crazy and it’s like in this black smoke and the next thing is the window’s broken and I’m feeling the truck kind of moving and I’m trying to stop it. And finally it abruptly  comes to a stop and ambers are inside the truck and I’m kind of putting out.. I was wearing a pair of cargo shorts, tennis shoes, and a t-shirt because it was a 112 degrees I think, or something that day, whatever it was.

So I’m sitting there, I’m trying to find a way out, where and am I going to go next. What’s my next move and I looked forward and there’s the cut in the road which wasn’t too far forward on the left, I could’ve gone there. But I look to my left and there’s this bulldozer and the blade is basically pointing towards me so I’m like, I’m going to go there, that things heavier than this truck is.

Initially I was out in front of the big bulldozer because it's got the big blade and so I’m standing there for a few minutes and all of a sudden I’m being pelted by stuff in front of this blade. This stuffs coming around it’s like bee bee shots are just hitting me and branches are whizzing by my head. Once I started getting pelted and burning a little bit more I moved underneath the back of the blade.

But at some point. The, it was weird, it was like all of sudden it was calm. The temperature dropped, significantly. I mean it was just, this calm. The wind stopped. About that time a CDF truck came from this corner over here. And he kind of stopped and made eye contact with me and I said ‘Hey, can I get a ride?’ And he said ‘Yeah, get in here.’ We caravanned out with like, 8 fire trucks and a water tender and things like that. And then they dropped me off at a staging area with ambulance and the ambulance took myself and a younger firefighter to, uh, regional medical center for our burns and smoke inhalation. And then what they did was, haha, knocked me out and I woke up at UC Davis.

So, we didn’t get back here until, I think, the middle of August. And when I drove back up here, and I’ve seen a lot of things in my life, but it was weird. It uh. Seeing the trees with nothing on them, the ground barren, and, at the time, pieces of my truck still on the side of the roadway. The burn mark where my truck was in the middle of the road way. It was pretty hard.

And then, slowly as the uh, because I go out of here everyday to down and go out to the gym so that’s my, I focus on trying to do that. And every time I go I look at it and it’s, uh, it hit me. I mean, every time we come in and out I have to look at it. And, um, just deal with it. It’s like anything else, you know, you just learn to try to deal with it positively and work through it.

But um, yeah. That’s my story.”

The following is Chris Rosero’s podcast transcript.

“Like my entire life was packed up in uh, two cars. And that was a weird fact, cause I was like, ‘I’m not even moving to SOU yet, and all of my stuff is already packed up! Um, at that time I felt stubborn. Thinking like, I don’t want to leave because this is like, where I knew, this is my house, we shouldn’t leave yet. But at the same time, like, family had to come first. And so as soon as it jumped the Sac, is the moment I was like, ‘okay, maybe we should leave.’ But I was, for some reason I didn’t want to leave. Like, leaving was like giving up on Redding. And that’s a weird feeling, to give up on something, like so easily. it’s almost unbelievable. If that’s makes sense. Um, because it’s a traumatic experience that, in the moment you kinda go into flight or fight. Because, you can’t fight the fire. Like, as just a normal civilian you can’t fight that fire. So you kinda just have to be ready to run.

I’m Christopher Rosero, and I am a junior at SOU. I just remember going back to my car. After like, a practice we had. And, looking up to the sky, part of the sky was blacked out and completely, like, ominous, crazy looking, and the other part was perfectly blue. So it was a weird, like, mix of things so I had to take a picture of it, and I still look at the picture and it’s just, like, it’s a really cool picture but it’s also really, weird to think like, the next few days, all of a sudden all of Redding was on fire by that simple picture. It felt like an apocalypse movie. In my opinion. And that was the weirdest feeling I’ve ever had.

So, I was, before I left for SOU, because the different term system, I was still there while my brother was in high school. And it was his senior year. And he’s playing his first game. And it was against a team from Reno, Nevada. And they actually, at half time, came out with their entire cheer team, entire football team and surprised all of Redding with a check. To like, the city of Redding. To help the whole fire. And it was, weird because I felt like, maybe like that was almost kind of over, cause it’s been a few months since. And, I was like, ‘okay, everyone is moved in to sort of a new life and a normal function’ but then like, having that happen was...insane, because everyone all of a sudden was in unison started clapping, a few people were crying. I-I even felt emotional.

And, I don’t know it was, I didn’t lose my house, obviously the money wouldn’t go towards me per say, but it helped out people I knew, and all these houses that were burned down. So like, for another state, another city, another place that’s completely far away from us to know like, what happened, was, really world breaking to me. And, then I found out later that there was news channels in Florida, New York, who were reporting on what happened.

And... it was weird to have it all brought back up months after. So, especially with people who we didn’t know, who didn’t know anything about us, just donating to help a city they didn’t have any real care for, or have never been to, was, really...hehe like... special. So, that was a few months after. And, by that time, most of the stuff for all of Redding on the east side had been like, back to normal. Everyone was back in their life. But, driving up through I-5 was a little hectic, because, some of the roads were still down, uh, you could see the fire, like, scar marks all over that area and, I was in a mix of emotions because for one, new school, new place, and I had so much on my mind that almost anything was like, emotional to me.

It was, it was a weird feeling that I’ve never had. And when I got here, I just remember the first few days being home sick. And I wasn’t, I wasn’t homesick. But for some reason my body was. And, I feel like that had to do in part with everything that happened and just having to leave.”

Michael D’Orazi Transcript

The following is Michael D’Orazi’s podcast transcript.

“Both my brothers and my parents homes were destroyed in the Camp Fire. Um, and of course I traveled up there to, uh, help with them. Trying to just find anything they could that was recoverable. And it’s a, it’s a, pretty devastating sight to see. I mean, you see the pictures but until you get there, and smell the smells, and, look and see what took place and the charred remains and the vehicles and just understand how these people were just overwhelmed. Because remember, there, 8 o’clock in the morning went from a bright, sunny day, to completely black with smoke choking them, roads completely blocked up, and I’m sure, a sense of just overwhelming panic for a lot of those folks and for the people who were trying to get them out. My name is Michael D’Orazi, and I am the Fire Chief for Ashland Fire and Rescue.

Obviously I think Paradise, has really opened up eyes, even wider as to what can take place when you see a city completely basically wiped off the map. It pretty much leaves everyone with just, fear of what could happen. Evacuation is one of the major highlights of everyone’s concerns right now.

A notification system has to be in place, has to be robust. And has to reach as many citizens as possible. But also from that, you also have to have some kind of a formulated plan as to how we’re going to address evacuation in a timely fashion. And, without, creating more panic that is already going to be happening. And, you know, you have to realize that evacuations don’t necessarily happen at, you know, in the daytime. They can be in the middle of the evening, they can be in the mornings, they can be in the weekends, uh, and resources can be tapped very quickly and spread very thin depending on when those types of occurrences happen.

But, what we’re trying to do is just be a, proactive and progressive and actually, uh, you know, go out to the watershed which we’ve done here for several years now and do the prescribed under burns, uh, and make sure you’re, you know, we’re removing overgrowth, vegetation, dead material, things like that. But, of course that’s only in our watershed. And that only stretches so far. It doesn’t reach out to the other areas, that, you know, continue to expose us to the potential for wildfire.

I think it is really important for everyone to understand that, in Ashland, we need to make sure we’re working as a community. Together. There’s only so much that your public safety can do for you. And, remember we’re limited in our resources and how many people we have available at any given moment to help respond to those types of events. And we want to make sure we engage the business community, the schools, the, uh, hospitals, the skilled nurses facility so that we can coordinate our efforts and not, uh, actually be competitive or work against each other when we have an event occur. And we need to be sure that people are safe and we can get people to safe places and take care of them.

Working together, to understand each other's needs, to understand how we can work together, what we can do to not only prevent an event, but also in the face of an event, to make sure that we are leveraging all of the components we have in the community to help keep people safe and cared for.”

Julie Winter Transcript

Robert Stephens Transcript

The following is Julie Winter’s podcast transcript.

“I was home that week, and the fire had started a couple of days prior, I think it was on a Tuesday out on the French Gulch, and it, it was being addressed and we really thought that fire would be under control although it continued to spread, and on Thursday the conditions changed quite a bit. Thursday morning it was in the old Shasta area, and you could see the smoke, but we were thinking that, um, the firefighters are going to get that fire out. And then, then it, then it jumped the river, and I was actually at home that afternoon, and um, still thought they were going to get it, get that fire out, and then the fire tornado hit.

And so, like many others in terror, we grabbed a few essentials and then got stuck immediately in traffic trying to get out of our neighborhood, so, it was probably the scariest event I have ever been in, in my life, and I felt, as the mayor of a city, I should’ve been a little better prepared and the message for all of us was, ‘it could happen to you.’

I wasn’t the mayor at the time, but, um, our mayor at the time was also evacuated. We had high heat that day, i think the temperature was close to 113 degrees that day, there were winds that had kicked up, and there was a just some weather changes that allowed that, that tornado to occur, and spread that fire, um, so much so that 30,000 people were evacuated within just a couple of hours. Just imagine that whole west side of town fleeing to the east side. It was extreme.

I am Julie Winter and I am the mayor of the city of Redding. I was in responsible for direct response and planning to the fire. There was a huge, um, it was like having a whole extra city of people coming in and responding because then you’re having to put um, power lines back into play, a lot of the power grid was knocked out, we had, i don’t know, hundreds of, uh, poles that were burned so we had to clear that for debris, make sure gas lines were safe, and trying to get people back, reentry in the evacuated areas.

The immediate response of the city was, “we will rebuild. We are strong. We are in this together.” We have some engineers looking at ways we might be able to create some jurisdictions where we would increase taxes for fuel reduction. The state is also doing more clearing through, um, I think it’s through Cal Fire but they are going to be doing more, um, fuel reduction as well, and we applied for and received a grant to have professionals come in and help us with, um, a community wide plan for fire reduction. And that will include our land use, where we allow building our ordinance, that will include fuel reduction plan as well as community education. I feel like the city has really pulled together and is through the worst of it. Now, it’s the rebuild process.”

The following is Robert Stephens podcast transcript.

“I think the best word to probably use in incinerated. I mean literally everything is completely burned up. So, when you’re looking at something and you’re trying to find a little pearl in that, that, you know, shell, it's sometimes hard to find those. Uh, Robert Stephens, and I’ve been here 22 years in April, and uh, I’m a captain. So we were gone 11 full days, so we were in paradise itself I think for 9 of those, we have travel days. So, um, yeah, we were there inside for 9 of those.

You know, they talk about it saying it was the Paradise fire, but there was six or seven communities that were actually devastated and impacted and so I think one of the things you know when you talk about what’s the, the thing that kinda sits there is there were some communities that didn’t really get talked about, but the same devastation, the same impact to those smaller communities also occurred. Paradise just happens to be the largest community in that region.

Because a wind driven fire, we can’t, you can't slow it down, and so that was what was so different about some of these fires that have happened in the Redding one, and the one down in Napa valley and those were all wind driven events and in those situations we just basically need to focus on getting people out.

That community will rebuild, and they will be as strong or stronger than they were before. It’s an incredible community that’s in that whole region, but to be able to know that they, you know, have themselves and you know, and all the life that was lost if you were up there, I would say that we were fortunate that it wasn’t more lives lost.

I do know that we’re getting more active and, you know, more responsive and getting more involved and relying on more resources statewide and um we have a great local, regional response that helps us take care of a lot of our stuff at home, but the entire state will bring in any teams down, into our area if those fires hit our area. Um, and I think that that’s a part of the evacuation is planning on it occurring not planning on it may help and I think the chances are pretty high that Oregon, it’s got a lot of timber, it’s got a lot of wind, and fires do start whether their intentional or through lightning strikes and things like that and accidental. So, I think we just need to keep planning uh, for that, versus hoping it never happens.”