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Firefighters recall worst moments of the Carr Fire

Firefighters stand by homeowners in west Redding during the Carr Fire, just hours before a fire tornado swept through the area.

It has been one month since the Carr Fire began sweeping through forest and residential areas in Shasta and Trinity County. Many firefighters will be returning home to their families, but the extreme fire behavior is still a daunting memory.

The Carr Fire, which started on July 23, 2018, in the area of Highway 299 and Carr Powerhouse Road, is reaching full containment.

Eight people have died in the fire, three firefighters, a PG&E worker, and four civilians.

1,079 homes have been destroyed and 190 have been damaged.

As containment grows, first responders vividly remember the worst days of the fire and said they still haven't fully debriefed from the tragedy they have all witnessed.

Cal Fire branch leader for the Carr Fire Josh Campbell said he's experienced extreme fire behavior before during the 2017 Santa Rosa Fires, but nothing like what he witnessed this July.

"In this situation, everywhere you drove it just seemed like you were driving into more fire." said Campbell

Campbell said the fire made its' own path, jumping large barriers such as Highway 299 and parts of Whiskeytown Lake, feeding off of itself in the form of tornadoes at times.

"It seems like the fire was moving so fast that the plan he would formulate and put together, before you had the opportunity to strategically put your plan into action, your plan was null and void. It wasn’t anything operationally we were doing, the fire was dictating. It was moving faster than we could move," said Campbell." Our main goal was to protect as many houses and people as we could and it was out marching us. We couldn’t keep up with it."

The Battalion Chief from Cal Fire's Fresno Kings Unit said he called his family the morning after two people, a Redding firefighter and a private dozer operator, died on the fire line.

"To learn of two fatalities on your branch in basically an hour's time will set you back. I just basically told them you know it's the one time in my life in 22 years where I didn't know if I would ever see them again. I really didn't," said Campbell

Anthony Romero from the Kern County Fire Department shared his pain and expressed how the fire community is hurting after what feels like so many losses in such a short amount of time.

"We were mentally drained because of everything that's happening," said Romero while holding back his emotions." So now today we're going home and I'm pretty sure when we get home it's going to kind of set in. Plus wearing these badges, it's been harsh. It's been a really hard year. Close friends have died."

Romero is one of thousands of firefighters who have placed a black strap over their fire badge to remember fallen "brothers and sisters" whose lives were lost fighting California wildfires.

Romero, a fire engineer, was assigned to Weaverville in Trinity County. He left his family in Kern County 30 days ago to assist on the dangerous Carr Fire. He said he did not know what to expect when he arrived but he could tell the worst had happened as he saw the fear on peoples faces.

"Just the scare factor in their eyes, seeing the children that were like 'when are we going to be able to go home' was kind of hard because we didn't have the answers on that end," said Romero.

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