Sat 20 Oct 2018 12.00 BST
I’m assistant chief on the highway patrol, so summer was a busy time for us first responders. I just couldn’t believe that my house would burn down. We got a few things out that were immediately accessible. Our photos were a priority, but it was mostly the clothes on our backs. By the time we came to evacuate my daughter from her boyfriend’s house, at 6.30pm or 7pm, the fire was totally different: tens of houses just going down as the tornado-like winds were picking up. I told them just to follow behind my lights and sirens, so I could get them to safety.
At 9.30 the next morning, my lieutenant called me. He said, “Chief, I don’t know how to tell you this, but your house is gone.” When I got up here, it was still on fire – some of the stuff was just collapsed and flames were burning throughout the property. I hugged my lieutenant. I started crying, he started crying – which you are never supposed to do on the highway patrol, right? But it was just for a moment – I realised I was just one of thousands of people who had lost their homes.
The fire started because an elderly couple were towing a trailer and the tyre blew. The wheel started sparking and caught the brush. I don’t know about climate change but the conditions here are heavily wooded. A little bit of breeze and not too much in the way of moisture to combat it: it was the perfect storm.
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