Harrowing footage released Thursday shows a sheriff’s deputy navigating walls of flames and massive swirls of embers as he searched for a group of nurses who needed help escaping a catastrophic wildfire that ultimately leveled a Northern California town and left dozens of people dead.
Deputy Aaron Parmley of the Butte County Sheriff’s Department turned on his body camera on the morning of Nov. 8 after his patrol vehicle broke down due to the wildfire’s heat, forcing him to leave it behind and flee on foot. Parmley started recording because he thought he would not survive the rapidly moving, powerful blaze, the department said.
As the Camp fire quickly descended upon the quiet town of Paradise and forced thousands of people to flee, about four nurses from Adventist Health Feather River Hospital stayed behind to ensure all their patients made it out alive.
In the four-minute video, the wind whips loudly as the deputy jogs through the smoke-shrouded hospital parking lot, flames leaping behind the trees all around him. A woman yells in the distance.
“Oh, it’s not good,” he says to himself as he makes his way through the mostly abandoned hospital.
The sky darkens as the deputy and nurses run down the road, waves of embers pouring down around them. Police dispatchers calling for backup and other emergency vehicles can be heard in the background.
Panting heavily, Parmley yells “it’s bad” as the group encounters other residents trying to escape.
“Watch out, watch out!” a man cries.
“Are they coming for us?” one of the nurses yells, then screams for her colleague.
Through the red haze, the sound of an engine grumbling roars above the wind and yellow headlights inch closer.
Parmley waves his flashlight as he and the group make their way toward a bulldozer.
“Can we get in?” he asks.
“Yeah, come on,” the driver replies.
One of the nurses continues to yell for her colleague as the deputy ushers them up into the yellow truck.
The driver cautions that he can only take one or two people as Parmley, breathing heavily, runs around the side and hops into the back and slams the door shut.
“Everybody just stay quiet, okay,” the driver says as he starts up the dozer, the flames raging in the window.