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Firefighters talk about forming a circle of engines to shelter people from the Camp Fire

Cal Fire firefighters from Station #75 in Hillcrest, Ca who were one of the first responding engines to the Camp Fire in Butte County.

Among the heroes in the Camp Fire were a group of Cal Fire firefighters from the Shasta-Trinity unit who formed a circle of engines in Paradise in order to save dozens of people fleeing from the unforgiving blaze.

Even though it was 9 a.m., it felt like midnight, according to Chief Ken Lowe with Cal Fire Battalion II out of Jones Valley in Shasta County.

Engines from Cal Fire Station #74 were one of five with the Shasta-Trinity team of firefighters who raced south the morning of November 8th to help their neighbors in Butte County as soon as the fire started.

The Camp Fire forced thousands from their homes in Paradise, Magalia and surrounding communities, causing chaos on all four lanes of the only main road out. Dozens abandoned their cars on Skyway Road.

"It was grid locked," Chief Lowe said his engines faced four to five lanes of traffic going against them, as people were evacuating they were trying to get in to fight the fire. Many vehicles they passed were already burnt and there were people who were not able to escape the flames.

For the first 48 hours, firefighters played defense. With life being the priority, they pulled people into their engines, performing rescue after rescue.

The five Cal Fire engines from Shasta-Trinity and two from the Lassen-Modoc unit sheltered families in the intersection of Skyway and Clark Road for almost two hours as the fire roared over and around them.

"We just came up with a quick plan to get them in the intersection, surround them and do our best to make sure these folks survived," Chief Lowe said they didn't know how successful their strategy would be but creating a temporary refuge for evacuees was their first and only option.

They estimate 40 to 50 people were saved by circling their engines to shield them. Every one of the vehicles on the outside of their circle of engines burnt.

Once the fire had moved on, further up Skyway, the crews continued for two solid days making rescues, looking for those left behind.

"I was never so proud to be a fireman at that moment, never more proud of the folks that were with me," Chief Lowe said.

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